SHE is the beauty queen who married Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman aged 18 and stuck by him during his murderous reign as boss of the feared Sinaloa cartel.
Even after his arrest, Emma Coronel Aispuro refused to turn on her lover during his trial, despite hearing how he tortured enemies and kept mistresses.
But now US investigators are confident the glamorous gangster’s moll — nicknamed “Little Queen” by El Chapo and a Narco Princess by cops — could crack.
Coronel, 31, was arrested in the US on Monday accused of helping to run her husband’s drug-trafficking empire after a “high-ranking associate” of the cartel ratted out its senior members.
Prosecutors released details alleging her involvement in El Chapo’s dramatic prison escape in 2015, when he dropped into a tunnel and rode out on a motorbike.
She is also accused of bragging that £1.4million had been raised to spring him free a second time — as she was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.
On Tuesday Coronel appeared before a court in Washington where she was remanded in custody — and a judge warned she could be jailed for life.
Top US drug cop Mike Vigil told The Sun: “Emma Coronel has always been a narco princess.
“Her father Inez and her brother Omar were drug traffickers when she was growing up.
“When she married Chapo Guzman the families merged.
“Guzman brought in her father and brother to be his top lieutenants.
“The cartels trust their family members more than anybody else.
“She can provide a lot of information that can lead to US-based indictments against Sinaloa cartel members.”
But Vigil, who was the head of international operations for America’s Drug Enforcement Administration, added that if she turned supergrass, Coronel could face violent reprisals from the cartel.
He explained: “Her life is in danger if she co-operates.
“Her motivation for co-operating would be her young twin daughters. She goes to jail, she has a life without them.”
Coronel met the drug kingpin — 32 years her senior — when she was a teenager at a ranch in Durango, Mexico, near his Sinaloa territory.
Born in California, the dual US- Mexican national is known to have won a pageant as a youngster, yet much of the dark-haired beauty’s upbringing is shrouded in mystery.
El Chapo, then well-established as the cartel’s boss, had already been on the run for six years when they met, after a daring escape from prison in a laundry cart in 2001.
He is reported to have asked her out when she was 17.
Coronel told The New York Times in 2019 that their relationship started as “a lovely friendship”.
She said: “With the passing of months we became girlfriend and boyfriend.
“And when I turned 18 years old, we married in a very simple ceremony with family and only close friends.”
During their married life, El Chapo, who is believed to have had at least four wives, was either in jail or on the run, while banking an estimated £10billion.
He was said to have built his cartel’s drug-smuggling operation into a sophisticated organisation reminiscent of a multinational corporation.
Along with it came all the toys of the super rich for Coronel, including planes, boats and even a private zoo — with Forbes Magazine putting El Chapo on its list of the world’s richest people in 2009.
The cartel chief, who rose from poverty in rural Mexico, was said to have trafficked more than 150 tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the US over 30 years.
He also meted out horrific punishments to his rivals.
One former bodyguard testified that he watched El Chapo kill three rival drug cartel members. One was shot and buried while still alive.
The monster owned a handgun with his diamond-encrusted initials and once bragged that the greatest pleasure he had ever experienced was having an enemy killed.
But Coronel refused to admit that she knew of his crimes. She was a fixture at his 2019 trial in New York — after which he was jailed for life at a US maximum-security prison.
She even separated herself from their nine-year-old twin girls, Emali and Maria Joaquina, to travel to the Big Apple to watch his three-month trial.
She sat emotionless in her reserved seat in the second row of the court.
On the morning one of El Chapo’s mistresses took the stand, Coronel and her husband wore matching maroon velvet suit jackets in an apparent show of solidarity.
After the trial, she said: “I don’t know my husband as the person they are trying to show him as, but rather I admire him as the human being that I met and the one that I married.”
Coronel remained loyal to her husband after his life sentence, even telling US reality TV show Cartel Crew in 2019 that she wanted to launch a clothing line in his name.
She said: “I consider myself a normal woman and often people judge me without knowing me.”
Prosecutors, however, now allege she knowingly profited from his empire.
She was “aware” of the cartel’s activities and “understood the drug proceeds she controlled” were from narcotics smuggling, they claim.
Cops arrested her at Washington’s Dulles Airport on Monday.
She was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the US.
Intercepted communications are said to show how Coronel relayed messages related to the cartel for El Chapo while he was jailed in Mexico.
The court papers also claim Coronel played a key role in helping El Chapo escape from the country’s Altiplano maximum-security prison in 2015.
That was the time he climbed down a hole dug under the shower of his jail cell to the motorbike.
At the end of the mile-long tunnel was one of Coronel’s brothers, who helped him fly home.
Court papers claim that Coronel worked with El Chapo’s sons and the co-operating witness on the plot, which involved buying land nearby and smuggling a GPS watch to the mobster to pinpoint where to dig the tunnel.
The gangster was arrested again in 2016 and prosecutors allege that Coronel headed a second attempt to spring him free.
She is said to have paid the co-operating witness $1million to prepare for another prison break.
But the plot was interrupted when El Chapo was moved to another jail ahead of his 2019 trial.
During the trial, prosecutors shared the couple’s text messages from 2012, which showed the drug lord instructing his wife to hide a gun in their home in anticipation of it being raided.
Coronel certainly seems to be devoted to her love.
In 2017, she said: “I will follow to wherever he is. I am in love with him. He is the father of my children.”
Now the charges facing Coronel will test just how far her loyalty will go.
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