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Narco Blog: Judge Blocks Bid to Extradite Mexico’s Sandra Avila “Queen of the Pacific”- Again
Photo: Sandra Avila Queen of the Pacific
A Mexican federal judge has blocked a second attempt to extradite alleged drug trafficker Sandra Avila Beltran, known as the “Queen of the Pacific,” to the United States.
Judge Jesus Alberto Chavez Hernandez said in his ruling Thursday that Mexican law prohibits the extradition of citizens for trial on crimes for which they have already been prosecuted at home.
In late 2010, Avila and Colombian Juan Diego Espinosa, who was extradited to the United States in December 2008, were acquitted of charges of conspiracy to smuggle several tons of cocaine into Mexico and other charges.
Last year, an appeals court upheld the acquittal of the pair on charges of organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering, saying there was insufficient evidence to support allegations they acquired, transported or introduced the big haul of cocaine into Mexico by boat in 2001.
Regarding the accusations of money laundering, the court said prosecutors did not show that transactions including purchases and bank deposits were carried out with proceeds from illicit activities.
Despite those rulings, Avila remains the subject of an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Chavez said.
The judge said the U.S. indictment states that Avila, who was arrested in September 2007, traveled to Colombia in late 2001 to negotiate the shipment of 9,000 kilos (19,800 pounds) of cocaine to Mexico and eventually the United States.
The shipment was discovered on Dec. 21, 2001, on board a Mexican-flagged vessel that was intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and later handed over to the Mexican navy, Chavez said.
The judge said the essence of the U.S. indictment - like the trials for which Avila was previously acquitted - specifically relates to the 2001 drug trafficking case.
Thursday’s ruling marks the second time a federal court has blocked an attempt to extradite Avila to the United States.
In August of last year, a court ordered the Foreign Relations Secretariat to drop its extradition order against Avila and issue another one based on different charges, citing constitutional protections against double jeopardy.
Avila, who still faces other charges in Mexico for organized crime, money laundering and conspiracy to smuggle drugs, remains behind bars.
Members of Avila’s family include her once-powerful uncle, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, alias “El Padrino” (The Godfather), who is serving a long prison sentence in Mexico; and her great uncle, Juan Jose Quintero Payan, a co-founder of the Juarez cartel who was sentenced in the United States to 18 years in prison on drug-trafficking charges last year.
Reputed to be a key intermediary between Colombian cocaine producers and Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, Avila is the most prominent woman in the hyper-macho world of the Mexican drug trade.
After her arrest, the Mexican press compared Avila to the main character in Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novel “La Reina del Sur” (The Queen of the South) and she inspired a popular “corrido,” or ballad, by Los Tigres del Norte.