Mexico to Free Cartel Smuggler 'Queen of the Pacific' Avila Beltran

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MEXICO CITY — A jailed Mexican drug smuggler known as the "Queen of the Pacific" is to be released after partially completing a five-year sentence on money-laundering charges, the attorney general's office said on Saturday.

A federal judge in Mexico's western Jalisco state accepted the appeal of Sandra Avila Beltran and ordered her immediate release, saying her five-year sentence was based on the same crime that triggered previous stints behind bars. Avila Beltran, the highest-profile woman linked to Mexico's drug trade, was expected to be set free later on Saturday, a federal security official said on condition of anonymity.

Avila Beltran was sentenced to a nearly six-year prison term in the United States before being extradited to Mexico in 2013 to face money-laundering charges. Her incarceration in both Mexico and the United States stemmed from charges that she provided money to former Colombian drug lord Juan Diego Espinosa to help him avoid arrest. In 2014, she was sentenced to the five-year prison term in Mexico.

Avila Beltran allegedly helped build the Sinaloa cartel in the 1990s with Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted drug boss until he was captured early last year.

Avila Beltran is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade. She is known as "Queen of the Pacific" because of her success developing smuggling routes along Mexico's Pacific Coast into California.

— Reuters