International Law

Seized cellphones led to capture of 'most wanted' Mexican drug trafficker, authorities say

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The U.S. will seek extradition of the claimed leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, who was captured over the weekend sleeping in a condo in a Mexican beach resort town in an early-morning raid backed by the American government.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, 56, said to be the “most wanted” drug trafficker anywhere in the world, had previously been indicted in at least seven American cities, and federal prosecutors in Chicago and Brooklyn, N.Y., have already expressed in interest in extraditing him, according to the Associated Press, CNN and Reuters.

A Mexican foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment on the possibility of U.S. extradition, Agence France-Presse reports.

Law enforcement sources told AFP, CNN and other news organizations that Guzmán, whose Spanish nickname means “Shorty,” was hunted down with the help of intelligence provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Cellphones used by captured Sinaloa associates led to other cellphone numbers and, eventually, Guzmán. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of Justice conducted wiretaps that gathered evidence and helped pinpoint Guzmán’s location, authorities said.

A U.S. drone was also used in the intelligence operation prior to Saturday’s raid.

Guzmán had previously been captured, tried and convicted in Mexico. But in 2001, eight years into a 20-year prison term, Guzmán escaped in a laundry cart. In addition to being required to complete his prison term there, he faces drug, organized crime and weapons charges in Mexico.

However, U.S. officials are arguing that it would be better to send him here for trial on similar charges.

“I think that would be the best course for not only Mexico, but also the United States, in ensuring that what happened in 2001 does not happen again,” chairman Michael McCaul of the House Homeland Security Committee told ABC News.

“This is an exceptional case,” McCaul added. “This is the largest, biggest drug lord we’ve ever seen in the world, and therefore I think extradition to the United States, where there were multiple indictments in multiple cities—San Diego, New York, in Texas and Chicago—where we could deal with him in a secure, safe way and bring him to justice.”

See also:

ABC News: “Timeline of Events That Led to Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s Arrest”

Time: “How Mexico’s Police Caught ‘El Chapo’”

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