MEXICO CITY – Drug kingpin Damaso Lopez Nuñez, known as “El Licenciado,” considered to be the successor of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in the Sinaloa Cartel, was extradited on Friday from Ciudad Juarez to the United States, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) said in a statement.
“The PGR informs that Damaso L. was extradited this morning from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, to the United States, in accordance with the extradition treaty signed between both countries,” Alberto Elias, the interim attorney general, told reporters.
Lopez Nuñez was arrested in Mexico City on May 2, 2017, by soldiers and PGR officials, and faces drug smuggling charges in a court in the western district of Virginia.
Suspected of having been Guzman’s right-hand man, Lopez Nuñez is considered to be a “key witness” in the trial against El Chapo, which is expected to take place in New York in September, Elias said.
“His extradition is crucial for both US and Mexican authorities because of the testimony he may provide about Joaquin Guzman Loera. This could be a milestone in the cooperation between both countries, especially regarding the exchange of information,” he said.
The interim attorney general explained that the two criminal charges brought against Lopez Nuñez in Mexico would be suspended to allow the extradition to take place, although they could be filed once again after his arrival in the US.
Lopez Nuñez is suspected of having helped El Chapo escape from a Mexican prison in 2001, a feat that allowed him to become one of Guzman’s most trusted men.