Mexican officials have allowed media cameras to peek inside the house where drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, notorious for two high-profile prison escapes, was hiding before his recapture late last week. The home was badly damaged during the raid that resulted in his arrest.
The house is located in Los Mochis, a town just inland from the Gulf of California, in the state of Sinaloa. A Mormon couple had reportedly lived at the house and sold it two years ago to an unknown buyer who did not move in but started remodeling, according to the Guardian. Workmen planted olive trees on the pavements lining both sides of the house and installed a ground-floor dressing room with a mirror concealing a secret doorway leading to a tunnel to the city’s drains.
“He could have gone to Argentina, to Europe,” said Anabel Hernandez, author of several books on Mexico’s drug cartels and the government corruption that protects them, the Los Angeles Times reported. “He was where he felt safe. Where he felt untouchable.”
Guzman reportedly paid off local officials and military commanders to keep quiet, but a tip came in Friday from a neighbor reporting suspicious activity at the house where the drug lord was hiding, ultimately leading to his recapture. During Guzman’s recapture, Mexican military reportedly burst through the doors to find 15 of El Chapo’s men armed with guns. Five of his hitmen were killed in the shootout. Guzman almost slipped away; he fled through the tunnel behind the mirror into a drain, emerging later from a manhole several blocks away. He ended up running into a police unit, however, which captured him.
Guzman was arrested Friday after escaping an Altiplano prison in mid-July through a mile-long tunnel. The jail break was the second time the high-profile drug lord managed to escape from prison; the first occurred in 2001. He was recaptured in February 2014.
Mexico has formally begun extradition proceedings of Guzman to the United States. He was notified Sunday by agents of the international policy agency Interpol that two arrest warrants from the U.S. were being processed against him.
The U.S. reportedly wants the former fugitive to be tried on trafficking charges. Guzman’s attorney said the defense has filed six motions to challenge extradition requests, the Associated Press reported, and Mexican federal law enforcement officials claimed that the earliest Guzman could be extradited would be six months, although it could extend beyond that.