‘El Chapo’ extradition to U.S. clears another legal hurdle, Mexico says

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Mugshot of El Chapo after his arrest on January 8, 2016

Reputed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s extradition to the United States has been approved, the Mexican ministry of foreign relations announced Friday.

Lawyers for Guzman will appeal the decision, attorney Andres Granados told CNN from Mexico.

Granados, a member of Guzman’s legal team, said that if the appeal is denied, the team isn’t ruling out going to the Mexican Supreme Court to ask for a stay on the extradition.

The United States has been preparing for Guzman’s transfer for months and has been hammering out the security details, American officials said two weeks ago when a judge in Mexico approved the transfer.

The U.S officials told CNN that once he is transferred, Guzman could be sent to Brooklyn, New York, to stand trial on federal charges.

In Brooklyn, Guzman and other cartel leaders were indicted in 2009 on charges of conspiring to import more than 264,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States between 1990 and 2005, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The alleged traffickers also are accused of sharing drug transportation routes and obtaining their drugs from various Colombian drug organizations.

Guzman also faces charges in Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, New York, Florida and New Hampshire. In its statement the Mexican Foreign Ministry said Guzman will first be sent to Texas for trial.

It’s not immediately clear when Guzman will be turned over to U.S. custody.

Earlier this month, Guzman was transferred from the maximum-security Altiplano lockup in central Mexico to a prison in Ciudad Juarez, near the U.S. border.

“Due to the proximity (to the United States), it makes it easier to extradite him,” a senior Mexican law enforcement source told CNN.

Altiplano is the same prison near Mexico City from which the drug lord escaped last July and to which he was returned after his January 8 recapture in the coastal city of Los Mochis in Sinaloa state. “El Chapo” slipped out through a tunnel in the brazen escape, taking advantage of a blind spot in a cell security camera.

Now the notorious Sinaloa cartel boss finds himself behind bars just across from El Paso, Texas.

Guzman is the focus of 10 legal cases in Mexico, mainly for drug trafficking, murder and charges related to his role as a cartel leader.