Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most notorious cartel kingpin who twice made brazen prison escapes and spent years on the run as the country's most wanted man, was extradited to the U.S. Thursday to face drug trafficking and other charges.
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department announced Guzman was handed over to U.S. authorities for transportation to the U.S. on Thursday, the last full day of President Barack Obama's administration and a day before Donald Trump is to be inaugurated.
The U.S. Justice Department issued a statement confirming that Guzman was en route to the United States and expressed gratitude to Mexico for its cooperation.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took custody of Guzman in Ciudad Juarez, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, and a plane carrying him departed for New York at 5:31 p.m. EST. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and agreed to give the information only if not quoted by name.
The convicted boss of the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world's largest drug trafficking organizations, had been held most recently at a prison near Ciudad Juarez. He was recaptured a year ago after escaping from a second maximum-security prison through a tunnel dug to his cell.
The 2015 escape was highly embarrassing for the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Mexican officials were seen as eager to hand the headache off to the United States afterward. Guzman's lawyers have fought extradition since his recapture.
"It was illegal. They didn't even notify us," said lawyer Andres Granados, who accused the government of extraditing his client to distract from nationwide gasoline protests. "They handled it politically to obscure the situation of the gas price hike. It's totally political."