Mexican drug cartel leader El Chapo found guilty, faces life in prison

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In this courtroom drawing, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, second from left, seated with his defense attorneys, listens to testimony that was read back to the jury, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in NY.

The world's most infamous cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who rose from poverty in rural Mexico to run a global drug empire and amass billions of dollars, was found guilty in a US court on Tuesday of drug trafficking.

Jurors in federal court in Brooklyn found Guzman, 61, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, guilty on all ten counts brought by USA prosecutors.

Biting his lip, his eyes red as he appeared to continually fight back tears, the small-fry cartel killer - who was convicted in Brooklyn court Tuesday and now faces life in prison - was a far cry from the picture painted of him by USA authorities as the ruthless head of the world's largest illicit-drug network.

Guzman listened to a drumbeat of guilty verdicts on drug and conspiracy charges that could put the 61-year-old escape artist behind bars for decades in a maximum-security US prison selected to thwart another one of the breakouts that made him a folk hero in his native country.

After being escorted off the plane at MacArthur Airport on Long Island in shackles, Guzman, 61, then sat in a chair in a hangar surrounded by U.S. federal agents looking stunned and scared for his life - and appeared to wipe a tear from his eyes. Once the jury left the room, he and his wife put their hands to their hearts and gave each other the thumbs up sign.

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Yet, jurors reportedly had an "avalanche" of evidence to work with before reaching their verdict.

The global notoriety of Guzman was boosted by two escapes from Mexican custody, one in 2001 and another one in 2015 - through a 1.5km underground tunnel large enough to ride a motorcycle. Colombian trafficker Alex Cifuentes caused a stir by testifying that former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto took a $100-million bribe from Guzman.

In one of the trial's final days, Guzman told the judge he would not testify in his own defence. Another day, a Chapo-size actor who played the kingpin in the TV series Narcos: Mexico came to watch, telling reporters that seeing the defendant flash him a smile was "surreal".

Outside the court, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue called it a "day of reckoning", promising the government would continue to root out cartel-related drug-running and corruption. "Amigo!" he said to a cartel distributor in Chicago. She said Guzman led her to a trap door beneath a bathtub that opened up to a tunnel that allowed them to escape.

The verdict comes following a wildly dramatic, three-month long trial in New York City that involved extreme measures to prevent El Chapo from escaping, such as his accommodations at a Manhattan prison supposedly being even more secure than a SuperMax. He took off running. Perhaps most famously, he escaped a Mexican prison in 2015 through an elaborate tunnel that included an adapted motorcycle on rails.

"Why? Because he is guilty and he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes", she told the jury.

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