Brooklyn prosecutors asked a judge Wednesday to strike explosive opening statements made by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's lawyer - in which he claimed both former and current Mexican presidents are on the drug cartel's payroll.
As well as smuggling drugs to the United States, Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel has played a major role in narco violence between rival gangs that has torn areas of Mexico apart and defied successive governments.
Guzman faces 17 counts in six indictments for crimes across New York, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere in the United States.
In court, Guzman sat at a table with his lawyers listening to the testimony and showing no emotion.
Prosecutors hope to show at the trial how Guzman rose from a low-level marijuana trafficker in the 1970s to lead the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
Zambada - a 57-year-old trained accountant who was arrested in 2008 and is still in US custody - was the first of several cooperators expected to give jurors an inside look at a cartel with a legendary lust for drugs, cash and violence.More news: Alexa voice shoppers get early access to these Amazon Black Friday specials
Jesus Zambada detailed on Thursday how the Sinaloa cartel paid bribes, preferably in US dollars, to high-ranking police and other officials to protect its drug operation.
"We were rescuing him. because the military was about to recapture him", the witness said through a Spanish interpreter.
According to Mr Lichtman, the real criminal mastermind is Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada - current leader of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. In Colombia, a kilo cost about $3,000, in Mexico it was $10,000 to $13,000, in California $20,000, $25,000 in Chicago and $35,000 in NY, he said.
Zambada testified he ran a cartel warehouse in Mexico City that processed 80 to 100 tons of cocaine a year, a volume that that brought in "billions" in revenue.
"I was part of the cartel, I was the leader in Mexico City", testified the informant, confirming that a "government group" was bribed in exchange for "protection". Guzman, who has been held in solitary confinement for almost two years, is a "scapegoat", Lichtman added. The defense sought to undercut the government's cooperating witnesses, saying that they were murderers who would "make your skin crawl".
"Your opening statement handed out a promissory note that your case is not going to cash", the judge said, calling Lichtman's opening misleading.More news: Activist Trupti Desai, on way to Sabarimala, faces protests at airport
"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.
Earlier Wednesday, federal prosecutors gave jurors a video tour of a tunnel between Mexico and an Arizona warehouse - a corridor Guzman allegedly used to speed drug deliveries to America.
Zambada detailed how cocaine would arrive from Colombia, by boat, plane or road, before being counted and transported to the USA border by truck.
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 US trial.
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.
Authorities used heavy tools to smash through concrete, Salazar said, only to realize later it all would have opened up on the Mexican side with the twist of a water faucet valve.More news: Uber loss tops $1bn loss ahead of planned IPO next year
"We didn't know there was a hydraulic system", Salazar said.