Saturday 1 October 2016

Powerful drug lord uses 1.5km tunnel to escape prison

Eduardo Castillo Mexico City

Published 13/07/2015 | 02:30

Soldiers stand guard as others inspect a vehicle at a checkpoint in Acapulco, Mexico, July 12, as Mexico's most notorious drug lord, Joaquin
Soldiers stand guard as others inspect a vehicle at a checkpoint in Acapulco, Mexico, July 12, as Mexico's most notorious drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, broke out of a high security prison on Saturday night for the second time (REUTERS/Claudio Vargas)

Mexico's most powerful drug lord escaped from a maximum- security prison through a 1.5km tunnel that opened into the shower in his cell, officials have admitted.

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The elaborate, ventilated escape hatch built allegedly without the detection of authorities allowed Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman to do what Mexican officials promised would never happen after his re-capture last year - slip out of the country's most secure jail for the second time.

Eighteen employees from Altiplano prison near Mexico City have been taken in for questioning.

A manhunt began immediately for the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, which has an international reach and is believed to control most of the major crossing points for drugs at the US border with Mexico.

Roads near the Altiplano were heavily patrolled by police with numerous checkpoints.

Guzman (59) was last seen about 9pm Saturday in the shower area of his cell. After a time, he was lost by the prison's security camera surveillance network. Authorities found his cell empty and a 50cm square hole near the shower.  

Handout picture released by the Attorney General of Mexico (PGR) showing the alleged end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin
Handout picture released by the Attorney General of Mexico (PGR) showing the alleged end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman could have escaped from the Altiplano prison, at a house in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico, on July 12, 2015.

Guzman's escape is a major embarrassment to the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which had received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords. Since the government took office in late 2012, Mexican authorities have nabbed or killed six of them, including Guzman.

Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking charges in the US as well as Mexico, and was on the US Drug Enforcement Administration's most-wanted list.

Guzman's tunnel ended in a house under construction in a nearby neighbourhood. He dropped by ladder into a 10m hole that connected with a tunnel about 1.7m high that was fully ventilated.

Guzman is known for the elaborate tunnels his cartel built underneath the Mexico-US border to transport cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana, with ventilation, lighting and even rail cars.

He was first caught by authorities in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison but he escaped.

He was recaptured only in February 2014 after 13 years on the run.

Joaquin
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman

Irish Independent

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