A Mexican judge has ruled that drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman can be extradited to face charges in the US. The former head of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel was moved to a prison in the frontier city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, on Saturday 7 May sparking rumours that he was set for extradition.
Guzman was for years the world's most wanted drug dealer until his capture by Mexican authorities in February 2014. He then embarrassed the Mexican state by escaping from prison through an elaborate tunnel in July 2015.
After almost six months on the run, regularly taunting the Mexican state, and a controversial interview with Hollywood actor Sean Penn, he was recaptured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa State, in January 2016.
Since his capture the US has been seeking his extradition where he faces numerous charges from money laundering to drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in cities such as Chicago, Miami and New York.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has agreed to the extradition and said that he had taken steps to ensure it would happen quickly. And a senior Mexican security official said to Reuters that the kingpin's extradition was in motion and would happen later this year.
Juan Pablo Badillo, a lawyer for Guzman, said his legal situation was still being processed and an immediate extradition would infringe his legal rights. Mexican authorities said his move from the maximum-security Altiplano facility outside of Mexico City was a routine transfer to allow for security upgrades.
Officials said the transfer was also part of an ongoing policy of rotating inmates for a security precaution. "I don't see that they transfer has anything to do with the extradition," another of Guzman's lawyers, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, said just a few days ago.
He previously escaped from the high-security prison after reportedly bribing prison staff in January 2001 but the most recent breakout occurred on 11 July, 2015, when the inmate escaped through a mile-long tunnel dug from under his cell shower.