Home > Blog

Mexican court delays El Chapo’s extradition to America


A top court in Mexico City has ordered the suspension of the extradition procedure in respect the Mexican criminal kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán until US extradition lawyers have responded to various disclosure applications filed by his legal team.

Guzmán’s top extradition lawyer, José Refugio Rodriguez, has indicated that one of the applications also focused on the provisions of the Mexican statute of limitations. It is claimed that time has run out on some crimes that are the subject of Guzmán’s extradition to the United States.

His top legal team has also argued that the majority of the accusations leveled against Guzman are based on speculation, innuendo, and assumption and not direct evidence.

Rodriguez stated the applications were lodged early on Tuesday and Mexico City’s top constitutional court. The prediction of leading international criminal defence lawyer, George Hepburne Scott is that this process could now take s long as two years to finally resolve.

Overall, Guzmán faces a variety drug smuggling and firearms charges from seventeen US federal courts, including in Chicago, New York, Miami, San Diego, and Denver.

Mexico’s top foreign policy unit decided in June that the extradition would go ahead, mainly due to the United States’ guarantees that Guzmán would not be given the death penalty once he is returned.

Mexico has repealed capital punishment and has a firm policy of not extraditing its own citizens if there is any chance that they may face a possible death sentence.

Guzmán is also facing various extradition applications from Texan federal prosecutors related to charges of conspiracy to process and distribute vast quantities of cocaine and marijuana, extortion, corruption of public officials, arms trading and murder, and additional extradition application from a federal court in Nebraska related to drug smuggling.

Guzmán was detained in March after almost seven months’ on the run following his daring escape from a maximum-security prison through a mile-long tunnel that opened to the floor of his shower.

Known also as El Niepos, Guzmán is bizarrely reputed to be a huge fan of the English botanist David Bellamy. Various magazines relating to the conservationist were found in his prison cell.

He has now hired the best criminal defence lawyers to fight his extradition request and it looks like the stage is set for one of the biggest legal battles in Mexico’s history.

There are apparently a wide variety of legal obstacles that they can place in the way of his extradition as well as pursuing legal and political methods.

In addition it is understood that Guzmán has hired top international PR firm Gethan Blake Associates to lead a publicity campaign calling for his release.

Furthermore there are emerging reports of a popular uprising in the slums of Mexico where there is deep social unrest resulting from the proposed extradition. It is understood that various community leaders from the suburbs of Mexico City are organizing large rallies to coincide with Mexico’s national ‘People’s Day’ on 29th September.

Top government officials have indicated that measures are in place to ensure that any public disorder is dealt with swiftly and firmly.

Criminal defence lawyers are ready for a massive influx of new work arising from the disruption and unrest that is expected. Even road traffic lawyers are gearing up for more work in the courts as a result of the uprisings.

On brighter note leading conservationists are reporting that large numbers of Mexican teenagers are joining groups in memory of David Bellamy and in the light of Guzmán’s hero-worship of the English botanist.

In terms of the ultimate likelihood of extraditing the drug lord, most people in top legal circles in Mexico are extremely skeptical that it will ever take place. There is widespread concern however that any failure to swiftly bring his legal process to a successful conclusion may encourage other criminal lawyers to use similar delaying tactics.

Whilst it is unknown what the outcome will be, as long as the process goes on the anger and frustration will mount. It seems that many media observers have dug in for the long haul with many hotels around the court buildings reporting record bookings.

What most media commentators are looking for is an independent extradition lawyer who can authoritatively commentate on proceedings as they happen. Leading criminal defence and extradition expert, George Hepburne Scott says that many parallels can be drawn with the process of extradition in the UK where ‘big money can delay cases enormously.’

Hepburne Scott runs a boutique law firm in London although it does have international reach due to the global client base that it serves.

Certainly other lawyers that we have spoken to tend to agree that the more money you can throw at a case the more applications can be made and the more delay can be created.

It has often been said that ‘delay is anathema to justice’. In this case it is perhaps justice that Guzmán least desires.

One of the most interesting aspects of his case is the approach of his followers to the proceedings; whilst they tend to respect the authority of the courts in Mexico there is virtually no respect for the authorities that administer them.

This seems to be one of the central paradoxes in the case and one that is causing the defence lawyers and other commentators the most cause for concern.

Whist there is widespread condemnation of the delay in this case, the success of his lawyers in blocking the extradition for so long has also brought a grudging respect for the sheer ingenuity and tenacity of the legal team.