As drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” remained in a Mexican prison, he knew that federal authorities sought his extradition to stand trial for criminal indictments in several U.S. jurisdictions.
However, one of his former attorneys in Mexico said that Guzman had no knowledge that he was going to be extradited to New York in January.
And, when it did occur, events transpired so fast that his lawyers in Mexico didn’t know the extradition was taking place.
“He didn’t know he would be extradited,” Silvia Delgado, his lawyer, told KVEO-TV. “This was apparently planned by both governments.”
Guzman has since pleaded not guilty to charges in a 17-count federal indictment in Brooklyn’s Eastern District Court.
U.S. prosecutors accuse “El Chapo” of operating an extensive drug trafficking operation, laundering billions in illicit drug proceeds, conspiracy to commit murders in furtherance of his ongoing criminal enterprise, kidnapping, and weapons offenses.
Delgado had frequently visited Guzman in Cefereso No. 9, a Mexican prison in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, for seven months before his extradition. The attorney said Guzman was aware of the charges in the U.S. but vehemently denied the allegations that his client was a notorious drug kingpin.
“I don’t know. I defended an agriculturalist. I have to believe what the client tells me,” Delgado added. “If the client tells me ‘I’m an agriculturalist’ and the client hires me to defend him, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Since he was recaptured after spending six months on the run following his second prison escape, Guzman constantly complained about the harsh treatment he received from Mexican prison officials.
On numerous occasions, his wife and legal team described how jail officials forced Guzman to stay in solitary confinement without any human contact, never allowed him to sleep because guards kept waking him at all hours, and prohibited him from going outdoors. “El Chapo” even complained of sexual harassment by one of the prison officers.
The treatment he allegedly received was so harsh, his attorneys claimed that “El Chapo’s” health had deteriorated.
Since his extradition, Guzman has remained housed at New York’s Metropolitan Corrections Center (MCC) in downtown Manhattan, where his American lawyers referred to the conditions as “worse than Guantanamo.”
However, despite the conditions at the federal lockup, Delgado said Guzman’s treatment in the U.S. has been far better than it was in Mexico. He even has the ability to go outside for an hour a day to exercise.
As a result, Delgado said Guzman’s health is improving. “El Chapo” is next scheduled to appear in court in May.