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  1. source
    View attachment 27580 Mexico has extradited to the United States a woman accused of setting up some of the first drug smuggling routes up the Pacific coast into California.

    Sandra Avila Beltran, dubbed Queen of the Pacific, has been handed over to the American authorities to face cocaine trafficking charges.

    Mexican prosecutors accuse her of having played a major part in the build up of the Sinaloa Cartel in the 1990s.

    Sandra Avila, who has been in prison since 2007, denies any wrongdoing.

    Prosecutors say she worked alongside Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, to build up one of Mexico's most powerful criminal organisations.

    She was accused of being an important link between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Norte del Valle Cartel, in Colombia.

    View attachment 27584 Much of the cocaine produced in Colombia is smuggled into the United States via Mexico.

    Sandra Avila Beltran is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known in the 1980s as "The Godfather" of drug trafficking into the US.

    Ms Avila was arrested in September 2007 in Mexico City, charged with money laundering and drug trafficking.

    She has fought the charges, saying she made her money selling clothes and renting houses.

    After a legal battle against extradition, Sandra Avila was handed over to the American authorities in Mexico.

    She was taken to Florida to face cocaine possession and trafficking charges.

    The BBC's Will Grant in Mexico says prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to bring drug smuggling charges against her but she remained in prison on money-laundering charges.

    The authorities allege she controlled vast amounts of the illicit wealth of the now largely defunct Beltran Leyva Organisation.

    In February 2011, the director of the prison where she was being held was sacked after it emerged that a doctor had been allowed in Sandra Avila's cell to give her botox injections.

    Article on BBC News 10th August 2012.


  1. source
    Fascinated US awaits trial of Mexican drug cartel's 'Queen of the Pacific'

    She is glamorous, sexy and has a taste for Botox and the high life – even while in prison. But the remarkable career of Sandra Ávila Beltrán, an alleged Mexican drug lord, looks set to end in an American jail.

    Ávila was last week extradited to the United States, where she faces charges related to a vast network of drug trafficking and the shadowy power of the infamous Sinaloa cartel. She arrived in Miami at the end of last week destined for a Florida courtroom.

    Dubbed the "Queen of the Pacific" due to her allegedly immense influence on drug supply routes, Ávila is one of the most colourful figures to emerge in recent years fromMexico's narcotics industry and the appalling violence that has cost as many as 60,000 lives there since a government offensive began in 2006.

    "She is a very interesting figure. She is the first really sexy drug capo to get media attention. She was glamorous and vain and there has been a fascination with her because she is female," said Howard Campbell, an expert on the Mexican drug trade at the University of Texas at El Paso.

    Mexicans have long been fascinated with Ávila, who is the subject of a famous drug ballad, or narcocorrido, sung by a band called Los Tucanes de Tijuana. "The Queen of Queens" features the line: "The more beautiful the rose, the sharper the thorns."

    Ávila is famed for her taste for fashionable clothes and is rumoured to have a doctor visit her in jail in Mexico to administer her Botox injections. She has complained that prison rules that stop her having food delivered to her cell from nearby restaurants are an infringement of her human rights. She is also believed to be the inspiration behind a popular Mexican TV soap opera, La Reina del Sur, about a beautiful young woman caught up in the dangerous world of the cartels.

    However, the real life Ávila is not that young any more. Her exact age is uncertain – she is believed to be in her early 50s – but she has spent nearly all of her life in and around the murky world of the cartels. She is suspected to be a third-generation drug trafficker, having been born into a family with extensive connections to the drugs trade. She is the niece of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, an infamous Mexican drug godfather currently serving a 40-year jail sentence.

    Using family or marital connections and her feminine charms, Ávila is thought to have risen up the ranks of the Sinaloa cartel by specialising in money laundering. But it was a dangerous world – both of her husbands have been assassinated.

    If falling for the Queen of the Pacific could be potentially lethal, it is also a lucrative career move. Investigators believe that her love affair with Colombian drug trafficker Juan Diego Espinosa provided a vital link between that South American country and the Sinaloa cartel. It also allegedly gave Ávila control of the narcotics flowing from Colombia to Mexico's Pacific coast ports, thus earning Ávila her now famous nickname and funding a lifestyle of luxury cars and dining in fine restaurants.

    Much of the fascination with Ávila is because of her sex. The drugs trade is often seen as being dominated by macho men and fuelled by testosterone, but experts say women have always played a key role in the Mexican drugs business.

    Last year Mexican media reported that Enedina Arellano Félix had become the country's first female cartel leader by taking charge of the Tijuana organisation. That phenomenon is seeping into popular culture too. In the latest Oliver Stone movie, Savages, glamorous Mexican actress Salma Hayek plays a ruthless female drug lord.

    Ávila has everyone's attention now. After years on the run, she was arrested in Mexico in 2007 and eventually convicted on money laundering charges, despite claiming that she was just a simple housewife who sold clothes to make money and dabbled in real estate. However, the court ruled that there was insufficient evidence for a drug trafficking conviction.

    The American authorities have sought her extradition ever since. Ávila battled hard against the move, not least through a vociferous media campaign. She has written a book and even gave an interview in 2009 to an American TV journalist, Anderson Cooper, when she blamed the Mexican government for allowing the drugs trade to flourish. "It's obvious and logical. The government has to be involved in everything that is corrupt," she said.

    Paul Harris, The Observer, 12th August 2012.
  2. source
    Mexican 'drug queen' pleads guilty in US

    A Mexican woman on trial in the US has pleaded guilty to helping the former head of the powerful Norte del Valle cartel evade justice between 2002-04.

    Sandra Avila Beltran, 52, dubbed Queen of the Pacific, admitted to "hindering the arrest" of Juan Diego Espinosa Ramirez, her boyfriend at the time.

    Avila, who has been in jail since 2007, was extradited to Miami last August.

    She faces a prison sentence of 15 years after accepting a plea bargain. She previously denied any wrongdoing.

    Avila was accused of being an important link between the Norte del Valle Cartel, in Colombia, and Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel.

    Much of the cocaine produced in Colombia is smuggled into the United States via Mexico.

    She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, who was known in the 1980s as The Godfather of drug trafficking into the US.

    On Wednesday, Avila pleaded guilty in a Miami court to being an accessory after the fact for helping Espinosa run from police.

    "Between approximately 2002 and 2004, Avila-Beltran provided financial assistance for travel, lodging and other expenses to [Espinosa] with the intention of preventing or hindering his arrest for drug-trafficking crimes," the US attorney's office said in a statement.

    Although she faces a maximum of 15 years in prison when sentenced on 25 July, she is expected to receive a lesser jail term reflecting time already served.

    Avila was arrested in September 2007 in Mexico City, and charged with money laundering and drug trafficking.

    She initially fought the charges, claiming she made her money selling clothes and renting houses.

    After a legal battle against extradition, Avila was handed over to the US authorities in Mexico and was taken to Florida to face cocaine possession and trafficking charges.

    BBC News Online, 24 April 2013
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