Mexico City – Mexican accused drug trafficker Sandra Avila Beltran has received a pair of favorable court rulings, one temporarily blocking her extradition to the United States and another upholding a lower court's decision acquitting her of organized crime and money-laundering charges.
The "Queen of the Pacific," however, will still remain in prison while awaiting a ruling in a separate money-laundering case.
Arrested in September 2007, Avila was accused by the federal Attorney General's Office of conspiring with her then-boyfriend, Colombian Juan Diego Espinosa, to smuggle several tons of cocaine into Mexico in 2002.
Late last year, a judge acquitted Avila and Espinosa, who was extradited to the United States in 2009, of the organized crime and drug-trafficking charges.
Avila was subsequently sentenced in February to a year in prison for weapons offenses, although she would ordinarily have been released based on the more than three years she had already spent behind bars.
Instead, she was transferred from a jail in Mexico City to a federal prison pending a decision on a U.S. request for her extradition.
On Tuesday, an appeals court left open that possibility, but said Avila could only be extradited to the United States if the Foreign Relations Secretariat shows that she would not be tried in that country on the same charges for which she was acquitted in Mexico.
Separately, in an announcement made public Tuesday, another appeals court upheld the December 2010 acquittal of Avila and Espinosa on charges of organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering.
The court said there was insufficient evidence to support charges they acquired, transported or introduced 7.9 tons of cocaine into Mexico by boat.
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.
Reputed to be a key intermediary between Colombian cocaine producers and Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, Avila Beltran is the most prominent woman in the hyper-macho world of the Mexican drug trade.
After her arrest, the Mexican press compared Avila Beltran 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.