Wife of drug kingpin El Chapo arrested on US drug charges

World

Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, at federal court in New York, 2019. Photo / AP

The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested on Monday (US time) at an airport in Virginia on international drug trafficking charges, the US Justice Department said.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, who is a dual citizen of the US and Mexico, was arrested at Dulles International Airport and is expected to appear in federal court in Washington on Tuesday.

She is charged in a single-count criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the US. The Justice Department also accuses her of helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015 and participating in the planning of a second prison escape before Guzman was extradited to the US in January 2017.

As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzman escaped through an entry under the shower in his cell to a mile long (1.6km-long) lighted tunnel with a motorcycle on rails. The planning for the escape was extensive, prosecutors say, with his wife playing a key role.

Court papers charge that Coronel Aispuro worked with Guzman’s sons and a witness, who is now co-operating with the US Government, to organise the construction of the underground tunnel that Guzman used to escape from the Altiplano prison in Mexico to prevent him from being extradited to the US.

The plot included purchasing a piece of land near the prison, firearms and an armored truck and smuggling him a GPS watch so they could “pinpoint his exact whereabouts so as to construct the tunnel with an entry point accessible to him,” the court papers say.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, is escorted to a helicopter in Mexico City following his capture in Mazatlan, Mexico in 2014. Photo / AP
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, is escorted to a helicopter in Mexico City following his capture in Mazatlan, Mexico in 2014. Photo / AP

Guzman was sentenced to life behind bars in 2019. His Sinaloa cartel was responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in recent court papers.

They also said his “army of sicarios,” or “hit men,” was under orders to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who got in his way.

Coronel Aispuro regularly attended Guzman’s trial, even when testimony cast her in a harsh light.

She remained in custody, and it was not immediately clear if she had an attorney who could comment on the allegations.