One of the world's most legendary drug lords, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, was extradited Thursday to the United States, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.
The transfer came on the eve of the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump, a possible peace offering by Mexican officials who are concerned about his declared intent to renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement with his southern neighbor.
Guzman, 59, arrived late Thursday in an executive jet at Long Island's MacArthur Airport from where he was whisked away by officials in a convoy of vehicles, according to TV images. He was expected to appear in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn on Friday, officials said.
"Mr. Guzman was handed over to the authorities of the United States of America," the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement on its Twitter account.
Guzman was "en route to the United States to face criminal charges in connection with his leadership of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the “Sinaloa Cartel.” the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.
The Justice Department expressed its "gratitude to the Government of Mexico for their extensive cooperation and assistance in securing the extradition," it added.
Guzman is charged in six separate indictments across the United States, including organized crime, weapons possession, murder and money laundering, as well as drug charges.
For four decades, "El Chapo" spread a network of trafficking operations marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines over several continents.
The Mexican Supreme Court on Thursday rejected two appeals filed by defense lawyers for the Sinaloa drug lord seeking to prvent his extradition, said the agency, noting that all the steps to allow his extradition had been fully met.
Lawyers for the drug trafficker said the extradition was illegal, alleging that four appeals were outstanding against Guzman's being removed for trial in the United States.
One of the lawyers told Univision that at this point "we can only cry."
Since he was arrested in January, 'El Chapo's' defense attorneys had fought in the Mexican courts to avoid his extradition to the United States, where he may face death penalty. The Mexican Foreign Ministry had already approved the extradition of Guzman in May 2016.
The drug lord first escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 and he was recaptured in 2014.
A year later he escaped again from the Altiplano maximum security prison through a long underground tunnel. The world’s most wanted drug lord was back in custody six months later, captured by Mexican Marines after a gun battle that left five dead.
He was being held in a prison near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juárez.
The re-arrest of the drug kingpin in January 2016 was a much-needed boost for Peña Nieto’s presidency, whose government has been buffeted by a series of corruption and human rights scandals.
Mike Vigil, a former DEA chief of international operations, told Reuters the Mexican government sped up Guzman’s extradition so Trump would not be able to claim the victory as his own.
"The last thing they wanted was for Trump to take credit for Chapo Guzman’s extradition," Vigil said.