Security tight as 'El Chapo' Guzman trial set to open in Brooklyn


The trial of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman begins Monday in NY with jury selection.

At pretrial hearings leading to the trial, heavily armed federal officers and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled outside.

The 61-year-old drug lord is facing 11 felony charges in relation to drug trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering, and weapons charges, which he is accused to engaging with during his time as the leader of one of the world's most infamous drug trafficking organizations.

Jurors selected for the trial will be escorted by federal guards to and from the courthouse, officials said.

The marathon Brooklyn federal trial, which is expected to last more than four months, will see Guzman face the USA justice system after twice escaping prison in Mexico, once hidden in a laundry cart and then slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.

The names of the witnesses have been blacked out on court documents with prosecutors saying their identities need to be protected because their co-operation could put them in the crosshairs of a vengeful cartel.

Opening statements are expected November 13.

Prosecutors say the US government is seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of the case.

Experts say the government has a near water-tight case likely to send Guzman, 61, to a maximum security United States prison for the rest of his life.

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The Sinaloa cartel Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful.

Arely Gómez González, Mexico's attorney general at the time, said the search drew few valuable clues until Guzman reached out to actors and producers and began planning a movie about his life.

Guzman is known for a series of daring prison escapes, including a 2015 escape from Mexico's most secure prison via a tunnel under his cell's shower.

Authorities say he maintained his grip on the Sinaloa Cartel.

Mr Heroy estimates the trial will cost USA taxpayers "more than US$50 million", a price tag that includes protection programmes for at least some of the hundreds of witnesses expected to testify.

He was extradited to the USA previous year.

USA prosecutors have spent years piecing together a case that they hope will end with the 61-year-old spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security United States prison.

Until he was recaptured in early 2016 - and extradited to the United States in 2017 - he seemed largely untouchable. McCoy reported from NY.