Drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman appeared in a U.S. court on Friday after his surprise extradition from Mexico and pleaded not guilty to charges that he ran the world’s largest drug-trafficking organization during a decades-long criminal career.
El Chapo (Spanish for “Shorty”), who twice made dramatic escapes from Mexican prisons and was one of the world’s most wanted drug lords, was accompanied by two lawyers during the appearance in federal court in Brooklyn.
The indictment in Brooklyn against him, with 17 criminal counts, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison, Robert Capers, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said at a news conference earlier in the day.
U.S. prosecutors have more than 40 witnesses ready to testify against Guzman, Capers told reporters, adding that the eventual trial will likely last “many” weeks.
Leading the Sinaloa cartel, Guzman oversaw perhaps the world’s largest transnational cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation, playing a key role in Mexico’s decade-long drug war that has killed over 100,000 people.
Guzman, 59, arrived in a small jet at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport after nightfall on Thursday from a prison in the city of Juarez in the northern state of Chihuahua, where his Sinaloa cartel rules.