Drug trafficker Sandra Avila Beltran, better known as Mexico’s “Queen of the Pacific,” will now face money laundering charges in Mexico following her quick release from US prison, alleviating fears she would walk free having served only a minimal sentence.
Avila was deported back to Mexico City from a Texas prison on August 20, and was promptly placed in a federal prison in Nayarit state to await proceedings on charges of managing illicit funds, which were suspended when she was extradited to the United States, reported El Universal.
Avila, who was arrested in Mexico in 2007, was extradited to the US in 2012 after a number of legal setbacks. She was released on receiving a light 70-month sentence after cutting a deal with the authorities as the time she had already served in Mexico was counted in her favor.
The infamous trafficker faced charges during the previous administration for funneling illicit money into two life insurance funds, each worth over $300,000, reported El Diario.
InSight Crime Analysis
Avila’s criminal connections started at birth — her uncle, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, alias “The Godfather,” was one of Mexico’s first major drug traffickers. Early in her criminal career, she served as a link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s Norte del Valle Cartel. She used romantic relationships to gain prominence in the Mexican underworld and, most famously, became involved with convicted Colombian trafficker Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, alias “El Tigre,” with whom she was accused of conspiring to traffic nine tons of cocaine in 2007.
The US plea bargain agreed with Avila appeared to bring to a close a tortured and controversial legal process. She was acquitted of drug trafficking charges in 2010 — a verdict upheld by a judge who was later investigated for organized crime ties — and her extradition was initially blocked in 2011.
By reviving the old charges, it may be that the Mexican government is trying to challenge perceptions that the country’s judicial system is incapable of processing leading underworld figures — a perception which has fuelled the increasing reliance on extradtion, which in this case also only led to a lenient punishment.