World / Crime & Legal

'Avalanche of evidence' against 'El Chapo,' prosecutors say at U.S. trial

AFP-JIJI

The “avalanche of evidence” presented against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman at his New York trial over the past three months shows he is guilty of trafficking tons of drugs to the United States, prosecutors said Wednesday.

In closing arguments, U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg pointed to the evidence presented by her team — testimony from 56 people, including 14 of Guzman’s former employees, as well as dozens of phone calls between the accused drug lord and others, intercepted text messages and letters he wrote from prison.

“We’ve presented an avalanche of evidence,” she told the 12 members of the jury under the watchful eye of 61-year-old Guzman, dressed in a dark suit, and his ex-beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel. “All this evidence shows the defendant is guilty of the counts.”

The prosecution placed rifles — including an AK-47 — a bulletproof vest and a brick of cocaine in front of the jury seized from the cartel.

Guzman faces trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges that could see him jailed for life in the United States.

Extradited to the United States two years ago, after two spectacular escapes from Mexican prisons, he stands accused of pocketing $14 billion over a quarter-century.

“In the opening arguments, we told you this case was about drugs, money and violence,” Goldbarg said.

“Over 25 years, the defendant rose to the ranks to become the principal leader of the Sinaloa cartel. His goal was to distribute as much drugs as possible to the United States, his goal was to make millions of dollars in profits.”

The prosecutor recalled testimony heard by the jury last week from Chapo’s former hit man, Isaias Valdez Rios — who goes by “Memin” or “Memo” — who told the court that he saw Guzman kill a member of the rival Arellano Felix cartel.

The victim had been tortured before he arrived at El Chapo’s camp on the plane of Ismael “Mayo” Zambada, who led the Sinaloa organization with Guzman.

“He had burns made with an iron on his back, his shirt was stuck to his skin. He had burns made with a car lighter all over his body. His feet were burned,” said the 39-year-old Valdez Rios.

According to the hit man, who later became Guzman’s secretary and pilot, El Chapo became angry when he saw the condition of the man, so he left him locked in a chicken coop for days and buried him alive.

The ex-hit man also said Guzman had tortured two other members of the Zetas cartel before throwing them in a bonfire.

Guzman’s lawyer have presented him as the scapegoat of a corrupt Mexican government and accused his co-defendant — Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is currently on the lam — as the cartel’s true leader.

Prosecutors are set to wrap up closing arguments later Wednesday before the Guzman’s attorneys presents theirs — the defense called only one witness before resting their case in a mere 30 minutes — and the jury begins deliberating Friday.