Case Law Database

Drug offences

Offences

• Cultivation/ production/ manufacture
• Offering/ offering for sale/ sale/ brokerage
• Distribution/ delivery/ dispatch/ transport

Substances Involved

• Cocaine
• Heroin
• Marijuana
• Methampetamines

Keywords

• Illicit traffic(king)(-offence)
• Cultivation, Production and Manufacture Offences
• Trade and Distribution Offences
• Offence of possession for the purpose of production, export, import or trafficking
• Organisation, Management and Financing of Drug Trafficking

Money laundering

Offences

• Conversion/transfer of proceeds of crime
• Concealment/disguise of nature/ source/ location/… of proceeds of crime
• Acquisition/possession/use of proceeds of crime

Originating Offences

• Drug trafficking

Keywords

• Proceeds of crime
• Seizure and confiscation
• Asset forfeiture

Participation in an organized criminal group

Offences

• Agreement to commit a serious crime (conspiracy)
• Participation in criminal activities of organized criminal group
• Organizing, directing, aiding, abetting, facilitating or counselling the commission of a crime involving an organized criminal group

Keywords

• conspiracy
• organizing/directing commission of (serious) crime
• criminal association

United States of America vs. Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera

Fact Summary

The defendant, Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, also known as "El Chapo", was, since 1994, a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel alongside Ismael Zambada Garcia. The Sinaloa Cartel was one of the most powerful drug trafficking organisations in Mexico.

Guzman transported illicit drugs with the use of fishing boats, submarines, carbon fibre airplanes, trains with secret compartments and underground tunnels. Once the narcotics were in the United States, they were sold to wholesale distributors. Guzman then used various methods to launder billions of dollars of drug proceeds, including US-based insurance companies, reloadable debit cards, numerous shell companies, including a juice company and a fish flour company, and the smuggling cash in bulk from the United States to Mexico.

Guzman was arrested in 2016 in Mexico and was extradited in 2017 to the US where he was convicted of continuing criminal enterprise; possession, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances; use of firearms; and laundering of monetary instruments and sentenced to life imprisonment on 17 July 2019.

Commentary and Significant Features

The "El Chapo" case stands out both by the extent of Guzman's enterprise and by the difficulty in bringing him to justice. The manhunt for his capture started in 1993 and he was only convicted in 2019. El Chapo made the Sinaloa Cartel one of the biggest cartels in the world. The success of his enterprise relied on the diversification of the drugs it sold, its suppliers, its means to transport and smuggle the drugs and the expansion of his enterprise’s control over other countries. In the 2000s, in addition to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, Guzman commenced the distribution of methamphetamine. He then spread his influence over Pacific and Atlantic ports and to border towns between Mexico and the US and between Mexico and Guatemala; all highly strategic locations for the smuggling of drugs. He infiltrated other Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama for the receipt of cocaine shipments. In those countries, he established small landing strips to facilitate the use of small planes for drug transportation. In addition to air transport, he diversified the ways of drug transportation to land, underground, and (under)water transportation. Furthermore, although Guzman used to have his cocaine supplied by Colombian cartels, he enlarged his array of supply countries to Ecuador and Venezuela, which allowed him to negotiate directly with the suppliers. As for methamphetamines, he bought precursor chemicals for producing it in African and Asian countries, including China and India.

Guzman’s cartel laundered the proceeds of its drug trafficking through US-based insurance companies, reloadable debit cards, numerous shell companies, including a juice company and a fish flour company and through the smuggling of cash in bulk from the US to Mexico.  To avoid apprehension, Guzman’s cartel used corrupt officials in Mexico to facilitate the safe transport of drugs and to protected his co-offenders from arrest and prosecution. Additionally, Guzman’s cartel systematically intimidated potential witness wishing to testify against him as well as former cartel members wanting to betray him. All these elements significantly complicated the task for law enforcement to bring him to justice. And, even if he got arrested in 1993, it did not prevent him from running his enterprise from the Mexican prison in which he was incarcerated. However, as soon as he learnt about his extradition to the US in 2001, he escaped a first time, supposedly in a laundry cart. As he gained more power over the years, the manhunt for his capture intensified and several raids were conducted in 2014 by Mexican law enforcement services and military. He escaped several of them thanks to escape hatches leading to an elaborate maze Guzman had constructed within Mexico city’s sewer system. He was eventually captured in February 2014, but he managed to escape a second time in July 2015. His final arrest took place in January 2016 and he was extradited to the US a year later, in January 2017.

Sentence Date:
2019-07-17

Cross-Cutting Issues

Liability

... for

• completed offence

... based on

• criminal intention

... as involves

• principal offender(s)
• organiser/director

Offending

Details

• involved an organized criminal group (Article 2(a) CTOC)
• occurred across one (or more) international borders (transnationally)

Involved Countries

Mexico

United States of America

Colombia

Guatemala

Honduras

El Salvador

Costa Rica

Panama

Ecuador

Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

China

India

Netherlands

Dominican Republic

Investigation Procedure

Involved Agencies

• Drug Enforcement Administration
• Department of Homeland Security
• Homeland Security Investigations
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• United States Marshals Service
• New York State Police
• New York Police Department
• Drug Enforcement Task Force
• US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
• Department of Justice Special Operations Divisions
• Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force

Confiscation and Seizure

Seized Property

Weapons and drugs

 

Legal Basis

See count 1 (drugs) and count 2 (arms)

 
  • Conviction Basis:
    Non-conviction based
  • Special investigative techniques

    • Special investigative techniques
    • Electronic or other forms of surveillance

    Comments

    Law enforcement authorities gathered evidence through electronic surveillance which included recordings of Guzman's conversations during which he discussed specific drug transactions.

     

    International Cooperation

    Involved Countries

    Netherlands

    Mexico

    Ecuador

    Dominican Republic

    Colombia

    United States of America

    Measures

    • Extradition
    • International law enforcement cooperation (including INTERPOL)
    • Joint Investigation

    Outline

    Since the beginning of the manhunt against El Chapo in 1993, the raid and operations for his arrest were conducted by Mexican military and law enforcement authorities (both military and law enforcement). Following each of his arrests, he was detained in Mexican prisons. He first faced extradition to the US in 2001, but this did not take place because of his escape from custody.

    Substantive amounts of drugs and weapons were seized over the years by US, Colombian, Mexican and Ecuadorian authorities. In addition, the case was investigated by the US in cooperation with Mexican, Ecuadorian, Dutch, Dominican and Colombian law enforcement authorities.

    Finally, the extradition of Guzman from Mexico to the US involved substantial cooperation between US and Mexican authorities. Extradition eventually took place on 19 January 2017.

     

    Electronic Evidence

    • Electronic Evidence/Digital Evidence

    Procedural Information

    Legal System:
    Common Law
    Latest Court Ruling:
    Court of 1st Instance
    Type of Proceeding:
    Criminal
     
     
    Proceeding #1:
  • Stage:
    first trial
  • Official Case Reference:
    United States of America v. Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera
  • Decision Date:
    17 July 2019

    Court

    Court Title

    United States District Court Eastern District of New York

     

    Location

  • City/Town:
    New York
  • Province:
    New York
  • • Criminal

    Description

    Following his extradition on 19 January 2017, Guzman was scheduled to appear before the Court the next day. On 12 February 2019, a jury found Guzman guilty of all ten counts. He was sentenced on 17 July 2019 to life imprisonment plus 30 years.

     

    Outcome

  • Verdict:
    Guilty
  • Defendants / Respondents in the first instance

    Defendant:
    Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera
    Gender:
    Male
    Nationality:
    Mexican

    Charges / Claims / Decisions

    Defendant:
    Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 848(a), (b), and (c)

    Charge details:

    Continuing criminal enterprise

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 959(a)

    Charge details:

    Possession, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances (manufacture or distribution for purpose of unlawful importation)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 952(a)

    Charge details:

    Importation of controlled substances (controlled substances in schedule I or II and narcotic drugs in schedule III, IV or V)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 952(a)

    Charge details:

    Importation of controlled substances (controlled substances in schedule I or II and narcotic drugs in schedule III, IV or V)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 959(a)

    Charge details:

    Possession, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances (manufacture or distribution for purpose of unlawful importation)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 959(a)

    Charge details:

    Possession, manufacture, or distribution or controlled substances (manufacture or distribution for purpose of unlawful importation)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 959(a)

    Charge details:

    Possession, manufacture or distribution of controlled substances (manufacture or distribution for purpose of unlawful importation)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    21 U.S.C. § 959(a)

    Charge details:

    Possession, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances (manufacture or distribution for purposes of unlawful importation)

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)

    Charge details:

    Use of firearm during and in relation to the commission of a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)

    Charge details:

    Laundering of monetary instruments

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Term of Imprisonment:
    Life imprisonment

    For counts 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8, to run concurrently.

    Fine / Payment to State:
    700  USD  (Up to 10,000 USD)
    Other sanctions:

    On the basis of 21 U.S.C. §§ 853(a) and 970, forfeiture of USD 12,666,191,704 as:

    (a) property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as the result of the defendant's violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 848(c), 846, 959 and 963;

    (b) property used or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of such offenses;

    (c) any interest in, claims against, and property or contractual rights affording a source of control over, the continuing criminal enterprise; and/or

    (d) substitute assets, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(p);

    On the basis of 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1), to be concurrent to the forfeiture order above, USD 12,666,191,704 as property, real or personal, involved in the commission of money laundering, or any property traceable to such property, and/or as substitute assets.

    Court

    United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York

    Sources / Citations

    Press release: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edny/pr/joaquin-el-chapo-guzman-sinaloa-cartel-leader-sentenced-life-prison-plus-30-years

    Memorandum of Law for pre-trial detention: https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/929896/download