World’s Most Powerful Drug Lord, Guzman, Escapes From Prison Again | Independent Newspapers Limited
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World’s Most Powerful Drug Lord, Guzman, Escapes From Prison Again

Posted: Jul 12, 2015 at 2:22 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Mexican drug kingpin, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, escaped through a 1.5-kilometre (one mile) tunnel that opened into the shower area of his cell, a top security official in Mexico announced Sunday.

It is being alleged that the tunnel was built without the detection of authorities, thus allowing Guzman to escape again after his re-capture last year from a maximum security prison.

Eighteen employees from various part of the Altiplano Prison, 90 kilometres west of Mexico City, are being interrogated in connection to the escape, Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said in a news conference on Sunday.

A manhunt has begun for Guzman, chief of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, which has an international reach and is believed to control most of the major crossing points for drugs on the Mexican border with the United States.

Associated Press journalists near the Altiplano said the roads were being heavily patrolled by Federal Police, who had also set up checkpoints. Flights were also suspended at Toluca airport near the penitentiary in the state of Mexico.

Guzman was last seen about 9pm Saturday in the shower area of the Altiplano prison, according to a statement from the National Security Commission issued early Sunday. After a time, he was lost by the prison’s security camera surveillance network. Upon checking his cell, authorities found it empty.

His escape is an embarrassment to the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which has received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords. Since the government took office in late 2012, Mexican authorities have nabbed or killed six of them, including Guzman.

Guzman was caught by authorities for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug-related charges. He escaped from Puente Grande, a maximum security prison in western Jalisco State, Mexico, in 2001 with the help of prison guards. It has been said that he escaped in a laundry cart, although there have been several versions of how he got away.

He was re-captured in February 2014 after eluding authorities for days in his home state of Sinaloa, for which the cartel is named. He was listed as 56 years old last year, though there are discrepancies in his birth date.

Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the U.S. as well as Mexico, and was on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list. The U.S. has said it would file an extradition request, though it’s not clear if that has already happened.

Former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told The AP earlier this year that sending Guzman to the United States would save Mexico a lot of money, but said Mexico would prosecute him at home as a matter of national sovereignty.

He dismissed concerns that Guzman could escape a second time. That risk “does not exist,” Murillo Karam said.

During his first stint as a fugitive, Guzman transformed himself from a middle-level baron into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. His fortune grew to be estimated at more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the “World’s Most Powerful People” and ranked him above the presidents of France and Venezuela.

He has long been known for his ability to pay off local residents and even authorities, who would tip him off to security operations launched for his capture. He was tracked down to a modest beachside high-rise in the Pacific Coast resort city of Mazatlan on February 22, 2014, where he had been hiding with his wife and twin daughters. He was taken in the early morning without a shot fired.