Brother of Sinaloa Cartel leader testifies against 'El Chapo'

El Chapo lawyer rebuked for opening statement in blockbuster trial heavy on speculation and light on proof

A USA judge has admonished the lawyer for Mexican drug smuggler El Chapo after an opening statement that riled Mexican presidents by accusing them of taking bribes.

USA prosecutors on Wednesday asked a federal judge to strike the opening statement made a day earlier by the lawyer for accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on the first day of his trial in Brooklyn for drug smuggling.

"Opening statements are not argument, and should be confined to statements about the evidence", US Attorney Richard P. Donoghue wrote to federal Judge Brian Cogan in a letter filed early Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Lichtman's opening argument was "rife with impropriety", and challenged more than 20 statements from it.

Guzman's attorney told jurors it would have been impossible for him to be in charge of the cartel since he was either in jail or hiding out in the Mexican countryside during the entire time USA prosecutors claim he was the leader.

Gastelum moved tons of cocaine a week through Central America to Mexico for Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, the U.S. Treasury Department said in 2014.

On Tuesday, defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman explosively claimed that the Sinaloa cartel bribed Mexico's departing President Enrique Pena Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

The government said its request concerned only the part of Lichtman's opening statement heard so far, and would not deprive him of the ability to make an "appropriate" opening statement. "This is a case which will require you to open your minds to the possibility that government officials at the very highest level can be bribed, can conspire to commit terrible crimes - that American law enforcement agents can also be crooked". Gold-plated AK-47 Both Calderon and Pena Nieto swiftly denied taking any bribes from the Sinaloa cartel, the former calling the allegation "absolutely false and reckless" and the latter saying it was "completely false and defamatory".

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Guzman pleaded not guilty to charges that he amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs in a vast supply chain that reached New York, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere north of the border.

Despite his diminutive stature and nickname that means "Shorty" in Spanish, Guzman was once a larger-than-life figure in Mexico who has been compared to Al Capone and Robin Hood and been the subject of ballads known as narcocorridos. The substantive phase of the case finally began with opening statements at what is expected to be one of the most expensive trials in United States history after two jurors were dismissed at the last minute.

"Mr. Guzman was somebody who enjoyed the publicity", Lichtman said. "He enjoyed the notoriety".

The defense has described the cooperating witnesses like Zambada as liars seeking to reduce their own sentences.

Speaking calmly and dressed in blue and orange prison clothes, he told jurors that cocaine was transported in gasoline tanker trucks, partly filled with gasoline to avoid detection, to crossing points on the US border.

The tunnel was half the length of a football field and big enough that a 5-foot-8 inch man barely had to lower his head to walk through it. It was equipped with electric lights, an industrial-sized weigh scale and a hydraulic system to lift away flooring that was covered by a pool table.

A defence lawyer for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on Wednesday named some of the former close associates of the Mexican drug lord - including his alleged head of operations in Central America - who will likely testify against him at a USA trial. He said he remained in the organization until his arrest by Mexican authorities in 2008.

"We didn't know the floor came up", he said.

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