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El Chapo’s former beauty queen wife faces life in jail for 'running drug empire'

 Emma Coronel Aispuro was Monday arrested on drug trafficking charges (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

The wife of notorious drug kingpin "El Chapo" could face life behind bars and a Sh1.09 billion ($10 million) fine after being arrested for drug trafficking and plotting her husband's escapes.

Former beauty queen Emma Coronel Aispuro faces a string of charges, with prosecutors claiming she helped run a multibillion dollar drug empire while her husband was in jail.

The 31-year-old wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was arrested Monday at Dulles International Airport.

 Coronel is married to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the murderous Sinaloa cartel (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

In a hearing yesterday, prosecutors claimed Coronel "worked closely with the command and control structure of the Mexican drug trafficking organization known as the Sinaloa cartel".

Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi continued: "The defendant has access to criminal associates who are

members of the Sinaloa cartel, as well as financial means to generate a serious risk of flight."

Coronel is being held at an Alexandria, Virginia, jail and her lawyers are expected to apply for bail.

She has not yet entered a plea.

 Coronel married "El Chapo" when she was 18, and the couple have two daughters (Image: Alexandria Sheriff's Office)

Coronel, a dual US-Mexico citizen, met "El Chapo" when she was a young beauty queen, and married him in 2007 at the age of 18.

The couple have twin daughters.

In 2019, Coronel launched a clothing brand in the United States and she also appeared in a U.S. reality show about mafia families.

Prosecutors said Coronel grew up understanding the drug business and the reach of the Sinaloa cartel.

Authorities said Coronel relayed messages to help Guzman conduct drug trafficking from 2012 to early 2014, and continued delivering messages while visiting him in a Mexican prison following his February 2014 arrest.

 Prosecutors claim the former model conspired to help her husband escape prison (Image: REUTERS)

They also said Coronel conspired in Guzman's famous July 2015 escape from the Altiplano prison in Mexico through a mile-long tunnel dug from his cell.

She also began plotting another escape following his January 2016 capture by Mexican authorities, it is claimed.

"El Chapo", 63, was convicted in February 2019 in a high-profile Brooklyn trial for trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the US over two decades.

He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years, and locked up in the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

 El Chapo was sentenced to life in jail (Image: REUTERS)

Coronel was a regular presence at her husband's trial.

Mexico's president said on Tuesday that Coronel's arrest was a US matter but he hoped the government would share more information.

A Justice Department official said the case against Coronel is part of a long history of pursuing drug traffickers, and not reflective of a new push by the Biden administration.

Coronel was charged with conspiring with her husband to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine for unlawful importation into the United States.

If convicted on all charges, Coronel faces up to life in prison and a potential Sh1.09 billion ($10 million) fine.

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