A judge in Mexico City has dismissed the efforts of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to halt his extradition to the US, where he faces homicide, money laundering, and drug-trafficking charges.
The Mexican government signed off on Guzmán’s extradition in May, approving extradition requests from courts in Texas and California. But the drug lord’s legal team has filed several appeals, including ones presented to a judge on September 26 that were rejected on Thursday.
A statement from Mexico’s attorney general on Thursday said the judge had ruled against Guzmán, but the Sinaloa cartel kingpin’s lawyers immediately confirmed to AFP that they would appeal to a higher court.
In mid-October, Mexico’s national-security commissioner, Renato Sales, said the country hoped to send Guzmán to the US by January or February 2017. Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Guzmán’s lawyers, disputed Sales’ timeline, saying that all the conditions needed for the extradition to be carried out had not been met.
One of Guzmán’s attorneys also said in late September that whatever ruling was made by the judge, both sides could be expected to appeal if the decision went against them.
“If it doesn’t favor us we are going to request a revision” by a panel of judges, the attorney, Andrés Granados went on, noting that the kingpin’s representatives could take the legal fight all the way to the country’s supreme court.
The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said was committed to extraditing Guzmán — who is currently being held outside of Ciudad Juarez — since the drug lord was recaptured in January. The extradition process has dragged on since then, and estimates vary widely about when it could be carried out.
Granados told AFP that if Guzmán is “judged according to the law, he won’t be extradited this year or during the six-year term” of current President Enrique Pena Nieto, which ends in 2018. A US government official told AFP that the Sinaloa cartel chief could be in US hands before the end of this year.
A court decision is not the only avenue by which the Mexican government could rid itself of Guzmán, according to Peter Vincent, a former legal adviser to the US Department of Homeland Security.
“As a technical matter, the Mexican executive [branch] is not at all dependent on the Mexican judicial system to approve of extradition,” Peter Vincent, a former legal adviser at the US Department of Homeland Security, told Business Insider. “It in fact has unilateral authority … to ultimately approve of extradition, because extradition is after all a diplomatic matter, best handled by the executive branch.”
Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderon, took this step with Bejanmin Arellano Felix, a Mexican kingpin and one-time enemy of Guzmán. Arellano Felix was sent to the US despite a judge’s order against it, with Calderon’s government justifying it by saying the capo would not be tried in the US for charges he had already faced in the US.
On the US side of the border, prosecutors in seven states are preparing, should Guzmán ever wind up in their courtrooms.
“The full weight of the United States government, predominantly the US Department of Justice, will assist whichever US attorney’s office is actually essentially awarded the opportunity to prosecute him,” Vincent told Business Insider. “And believe me, they all want the opportunity to prosecute him.”