Mexican drug smugglers who posed as journalists kicked out of Nicaragua
Eighteen people convicted of attempting to smuggle drug money in television news vans are now repatriated and will serve out jail sentences in Mexico
Reuters and AP in Managua
Nicaraguan officials on Monday sent back to their home country 18 Mexicans caught posing as television journalists in an attempt to smuggle US$9.2 million in drug money through Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan police transported the defendants, including a Mexican policeman, under tight security to Managua’s International Airport, where authorities turned them over to Mexican prosecutors and prison officials.
In January, a Nicaraguan judge sentenced the 18, led by the group’s only woman, Raquel Alatorre Correa, to 30-year sentences for drug trafficking, money laundering and organised crime. In October, an appeals court reduced the sentences to 18 years.
The 18, and three other Mexicans convicted of similar crimes in Nicaragua, will serve 17- and 18-year sentences for money laundering and other convictions once they return home. The two nations have an agreement allowing prisoners to serve prison sentences in their own countries.
However, it was not immediately clear if they would be able to mount further legal appeals.
Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said the inmates arrived on Monday and were sent to federal prisons in the states of Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Nayarit.
They were arrested in August last year after crossing the Nicaragua-Honduras border, where Nicaraguan officers found bundles of cash hidden in six fake TV news vehicles carrying the logos of Televisa, Mexico’s largest broadcaster. Televisa denied any connection to the incident.
The circumstances in which the other three Mexicans were arrested were not immediately explained, but Central America has become an active trafficking route for Mexican cartels.
Nicaraguan police chief Ramon Avellan said the transfers would free up prison space in Nicaragua.
Over the past decade, Mexican drug cartels have moved into Central America, using it as a staging point to transport South American drugs to the United States.