Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has pleaded not guilty in the US to charges that he ran the world’s largest drug-trafficking operation.
The Mexican drug lord was extradited from Mexico on January 19.
US prosecutors want an order to seize $14 billion of the head of the Sinaloa cartel’s assets.
In 2015, El Chapo Guzman famously escaped from a high-security prison through a tunnel – while being recorded on CCTV. He had fought against extradition since his recapture in early 2016.
Federal authorities have sought El Chapo Guzman for more than 20 years. He faces 17 charges including drug trafficking, illegal firearms use, money laundering, and smuggling cash across the border.
Ahead of his first appearance in a New York court, prosecutors revealed that they would seek the civil forfeiture of El Chapo Guzman’s assets to the amount of $14 billion – an indication of the extent of his empire.
US attorney Robert Capers said: “He’s a man known for no other life than a life of crime, violence, death and destruction. And now he’ll have to answer to that. That’s who Chapo Guzman is.”
If convicted, El Chapo Guzman faces a mandatory life sentence.
Robert Capers also revealed that prosecutors were not aware the extradition was happening in advance.
He said: “Guzman’s story is not one of a do-gooder or a Robin Hood or even one of a famous escape artist who miraculously escaped from Mexican prisons on multiple occasions.
“Guzman’s destructive and murderous rise as an international narcotics trafficker is akin to that of a small cancerous tumor that metastasized and grew into a full blown scourge.”
His ability to evade capture made El Chapo Guzman stand out from other drug gang leaders.
His first high profile escape was in 2001 when it was reported – despite some doubts – that he had escaped from a maximum security prison by hiding in a laundry basket.
El Chapo was recaptured thirteen years later. But in 2015, he walked out of his cell through a cleanly-dug tunnel, while under video surveillance.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had initially resisted extraditing El Chapo Guzman to the US, insisting that he should face justice at home.
However, after El Chapo Guzman was recaptured in January 2016, President Pena Nieto changed his mind on extradition and ordered officials to speed up the process.
El Chapo Guzman was extradited suddenly on January 19, arriving in New York on a flight from Ciudad Juarez.