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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

El Chapo gripes about cash flow ahead of trial

The drug kinpin, who twice escaped prison, wanted to read out a letter during hearing but judge forbade him

Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers. AP Photo/Marco Ugarte
Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers. AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Accused Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is struggling to pay his legal fees, his lawyer said Thursday as a US judge set his trial for September 5.

“I have received a partial payment of my fees,” lawyer Eduardo Balarezo told a pre-trial hearing at a US federal court in Brooklyn.

“The issue is that friends helped him pay that first partial payment but they are not in a position to pay the remainder.”

The problem stems from rules that govern what Guzman can talk about in limited telephone contact with his family.

The rules prevent him from issuing a requests or order, and “the rules prohibit me from telling somebody else to do something, so we're on a Catch-22,” the lawyer said.

Mr Balarezo told the court that he needs funds to travel to investigate scores of government witnesses.

“There are things that need to be done that we can’t do now because of the lack of funds,” he complained.

The 60-year-old Guzman, who twice escaped prison in Mexico, wanted to read out a letter during Thursday’s hearing but judge Brian Cogan forbade him.

The defendant then turned to his lawyer. “Tell him that I’m sick because of this whole situation,” he griped.

His much younger beauty queen wife Emma Coronel and the couple’s six-year-old twin girls attended the hearing. Guzman waved to them.

Judge Cogan, who had already delayed the trial to September, ruled Thursday that proceedings would begin on September 5 with jury selection.

He ordered lawyers for both sides by March 23 to submit questions for potential jurors, who are to remain anonymous for their safety.

Guzman has been held in solitary confinement in New York since being extradited last year, and has complained repeatedly about his health and conditions of confinement.

Accused of running the Sinaloa Cartel, a powerful criminal syndicate, Guzman is facing 17 charges. If convicted he is likely to spend the rest of his life in a maximum-security US prison.

Guzman “has constant headaches” and “vomits regularly, almost everyday,” his lawyer told reporters after the hearing.

“His psychological state has suffered, not to the point where a court would find him to be incompetent but it is affecting his ability both to study his case, to review his evidence and also assist us in helping him.”