Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, 61, will be sentenced on June 25 but is guaranteed to spend the rest of life in a high security US prison after a New York jury convicted him of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation.
Guzman broke out of Mexican jails twice – exploits which made him a Robin Hood-style folk hero in his native country – before he was finally recaptured and extradited to America in 2017.
He sat and showed no emotion while the verdict was read while his wife Emma Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen, reportedly burst into tears.
Once the jury left the room, Guzman and his wife put their hands to their hearts and gave each other the thumbs up sign.
Federal prosecutors put on more than 50 witnesses over three months detailing how Guzman's Sinaloa cartel amassed billions of dollars importing tons of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the US.
CAGED FOR LIFE
The lengthy trial was packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his mistress through a tunnel.
The decision was announced by note Tuesday after more than five days of deliberation — during which jurors asked the judge to review witness testimony and questions about the charges against the notorious criminal.
Though other high-ranking cartel figures had been extradited previously, the 61-year-old was the first to go to trial instead of pleading guilty.
TRIAL OF THE CENTURY
Evidence showed drugs poured into the US through secret tunnels or hidden in tanker trucks, concealed in the undercarriage of passenger vehicles and packed in rail cars.
The prosecution's case against Guzman included the testimony of several former associates and other witnesses.
Among them were Guzman's former Sinaloa lieutenants, a computer encryption expert and a Colombian cocaine supplier who underwent extreme plastic surgery to disguise his appearance.
One Sinaloa insider described Mexican workers getting contact highs while packing cocaine into thousands of jalapeno cans shipments that totalled 25 to 30 tons of cocaine worth $500 million each year.
Another testified how Guzman sometimes acted as his own ‘sicario’, or hitman, punishing a Sinaloan who dared to work for another cartel.
The witness said Chapo kidnapped the man, beat and shot him before his men buried the victim while he was still alive.
While the trial was dominated by Guzman's persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step ahead of the law, the jury never heard from Guzman himself, except when he told the judge he wouldn't testify.
The defence case lasted just half an hour.
Guzman's lawyers did not deny his crimes as much as argue he was a fall guy for government witnesses who were more evil than he was.
Defence attorney Jeffrey Lichtman urged the jury in closing arguments not to believe government witnesses who "lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people."
On Tuesday, Lichtman called the conviction "devastating," but he said he was proud that the defence "left it all on the battlefield."
Guzman was nicknamed El Chapo – which means "shorty" in English – due to his short stature.
He headed the Sinaloa Cartel, a criminal organisation named after the Mexican Pacific coast.
BILLIONAIRE DRUG LORD
El Chapo became the country's top drug lord in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel.
He was considered the "most powerful drug trafficker in the world" by the United States Department of the Treasury.
The notorious Mexican drugs baron had been on the run after escaping from jail, before he was caught early in 2016 – he battled against being sent to America to face charges but lost the fight in January 2017.
Guzman has remained in solitary confinement in New York since he was extradited.
His 29-year-old beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, has been banned from visiting him in prison and has instead attended many of his pre-trial hearings, waving and blowing him kisses.
He has accrued a net worth of roughly $1billion (£767million) – and was named as the 10th richest man in Mexico in 2011.
Forbes magazine have ranked him as one of the most powerful people in the world every year between 2009 and 2011.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration estimated he matched the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar.
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