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Americas

Mexican drug lord El Chapo guilty on all counts

media "El Chapo" Guzman in México in 2016 REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was found guilty Tuesday by a New York jury of crimes spanning a quarter of a century as head of one of the world's most powerful drugs gangs.

The 61-year-old former head of the Sinaloa cartel faces a possible life sentence after being convicted of smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States.

Guzman was also found guilty of money laundering and illegal weapons possession charges.

In a three-month trial that unfolded like a real-life telenovela, Guzman's former beauty queen wife and a parade of his lovers and henchmen took the witness stand under the gaze of the onetime drugs kingpin.

In his closing arguments late last month, Guzman's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman asked the jury not to convict on the basis of the "garbage" testimony of government witnesses.

Lichtman contended that Guzman was merely a "scapegoat," and that the real culprit in the drug trafficking operations was Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, the co-founder of the Sinaloa cartel.

"Mayo has been the largest narcotrafficker for decades in Mexico. He has never been arrested. He has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to stay free," Lichtman said.

The government, meanwhile, appealed to the jury not to let Guzman escape -- an allusion to his two spectacular jail breaks in Mexico, the last one in 2015 through a tunnel from a shower area in his cell.

"Do not let him escape responsibility. Hold him accountable for his crimes. Find him guilty on all counts," US assistant attorney Andrea Goldbarg said in her closing arguments.

During the trial, the government presented 56 witnesses and troves of incriminating material, including intercepted calls between Guzman and his associates, and conservations taped secretly by informants, over a period stretching almost three months.

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