EL CHAPO BLOW
THE former right hand man of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was yesterday sentenced to life in prison.
Damaso Lopez received the sentence in a Virginia court, separate to the high-profile New York trial of his former boss which has been running for the past three weeks.
It is unclear whether the former Sinaloa cartel lieutenant, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to trafficking charges, will be called to give evidence at the trial of El Chapo.
Prosecutors are relying on the evidence of several former cartel bosses in their case against El Chapo, 61, who is accused of amassing a multibilliondollar fortune, conspiracy to murder and smuggling thousands of tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from Mexico to the US and other countries including Australia.
Among them are a former Colom- bian kingpin known as Chulepa, or Lollipop, who underwent extreme plastic surgery (before and after pics, right) to try to change his appearance and evade authorities.
Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, 57, who struck a deal for a lesser sentence in return for co-operating with the Guzman prosecution, told the Brooklyn court he smuggled more than 400,000kg of cocaine during his 20year criminal career.
With lopsided features, taut skin and bulging eyes, Ramirez explained he had undergone several surgeries while he was on the run.
The former chief of Colombia’s Norte de Valle cartel, Ramirez was the third of 16 traffickers-turned-state witnesses to appear at the federal court trial of El Chapo, which is antici- pated to run for three months. He admitted to ordering 150 killings, paying millions of dollars in bribes to authorities and amassing so great a fortune he handed over $1 billion to authorities when he was arrested in Brazil in 2007.
Ramirez’s evidence was the first connecting Guzman to Colombian cocaine. He said he first collaborated with El Chapo in the 1990s and that the diminutive mobster demanded a bigger share of proceeds from flying the drugs into the US because his network of smugglers was so effective. “He said, ‘I’m a lot faster. Try me and you’ll see,’” Ramirez recalled, saying he was so happy with the service they worked together for years.
The trial had earlier heard evidence of El Chapo’s vast wealth, including his private zoo and personal train as well as his love for a gold machine gun and diamond-encrusted handgun. Last week, former Sinaloa trafficker Miguel Angel Martinez told the jury trial of several attempts on his life ordered by El Chapo, after he was arrested in Mexico.
In one, the kingpin ordered a mariachi band to perform a favourite song outside Martinez’s jail window.
Two hours later, he said he survived a raid from his former colleagues, who held a gun to a prison officer and threw two grenades into his jail cell.