Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman goes on trial in New York on Monday, accused of running the world’s biggest drug cartel and spending a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States.
The mammoth trial in a Brooklyn federal court will see one of the world’s most notorious criminals face the US justice system.
Prosecutors spent years piecing together a sweeping case against Guzman, who was extradited in 2017 after twice escaping prison in Mexico — first hidden in a laundry cart, then slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.
Guzman has been branded the world’s biggest drug lord since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, who was dubbed “The King of Cocaine” and was one of the wealthiest men in the world until police shot him dead in 1993.
Experts say the government has a near water-tight case likely to send Guzman, 61, to a maximum security US prison for the rest of his life.
Jury selection will be conducted in security conditions reserved only for the most dangerous defendants, with US District Court Judge Brian Cogan set to preside over the process behind closed doors.
The 12 jurors, with six alternates, will remain anonymous. US Marshals will escort them to and from court every day.
These ordinary men and women will determine whether Guzman — the diminutive father of two whose nickname means “shorty” — is guilty or not of 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.
According to the indictment, the Sinaloa cartel, which Guzman is accused of leading from 1989 to 2014, became “the largest drug trafficking organization in the world… with thousands of members.”
US prosecutors contend that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14 billion.
Guzman pleads not guilty, but the government has presented so much evidence — more than 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 audio recordings — that the defence complains they haven’t had enough time to review it all.
The case will cost millions of dollars and is expected to last more than four months.