A judge will hear the US extradition case against Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on Monday, September 26, the kingpin’s lawyer said on Wednesday.
A judge from the 13th district criminal court in Mexico City will review two appeals filed by Guzmán’s legal team in June to block the extradition requests approved by the Mexican foreign ministry in May, the lawyer, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, told AFP.
According to both Rodriguez and a source who spoke with Mexican newspaper El Economista, the session will consist of a final review of all the evidence by the judge, who will then decide whether to approve the extradition.
“The judge can make a decision — or not — right there and then, but usually in these cases he takes time to analyze it,” Rodriguez told AFP, noting that a ruling could take “days or weeks.”
If the judge approves it, Guzmán’s legal team would then have 10 days to appeal the decision to a higher court, which Rodriguez — who has said he could take the case all the way to Mexico’s supreme court — would no doubt do.
In May, the Mexican government approved extradition requests from US District Courts in West Texas and Southern California, which have indicted the Sinaloa cartel chief on money laundering, drug trafficking, and murder charges.
After the kingpin’s jailbreak last year, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto asked the country’s attorney general to expedite the extradition process against Guzmán, who is believed to have guided his cartel to the top of the narco hierarchy over the last two decades.
But, despite reports of rifts within Guzmán’s legal team, it’s likely that they can continue to drag out the legal process.
The kingpin’s lawyers still have the ability to file appeals in the case, and for each appeal “that the defense attorneys will file, under the Mexican extradition treaty, they have to hold a judicial hearing … which takes a lot of time,” Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the US DEA, told Business Insider earlier this year.
The sides involved have given a variety of estimates for the amount of time it will take for this process to run its course.
A US government official has told AFP that it could be completed before the end of this year, while Rodriguez has said that the legal wrangling could last for years. Vigil told Business Insider earlier this year that it could take anywhere from six months to over six years — an estimate backed up by previous extradition cases against similar kingpins.
"I don’t think he’s going to be extradited for at least another year,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in September, prior to the announcement of Guzmán’s latest court date.