At least $7 million in cash was found in the vehicles of 18 people pretending to be news crews from Mexico's Televisa television covering a drug trial in Managua linked to the 2011 killing of folk singer Facundo Cabral, Nicaraguan police said Friday.

The money was tucked away in six vans painted with the Televisa logo, police chief Aminta Granera told a press conference here.

The vans were seized Monday at checkpoint on Nicaragua's border with Honduras border and later brought to police headquarters in Managua.

One of the 18 people arrested appears to be a municipal police officer from the Mexican city of Durango, Granera said.

The trial of members of an alleged international drug ring got under way on Wednesday.

Nicaraguan prosecutors say the accused smuggled Colombian drugs via Costa Rica to Guatemala, for ultimate delivery to traffickers in neighboring Mexico.

The 24 defendants facing drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering charges include Nicaraguan promoter Henry Fariña, thought to have been the real target of the July 9, 2011, attack in Guatemala that resulted in the death of Argentina's Facundo Cabral, a folk music icon.

The alleged ringleader is Costa Rican citizen Alejandro Jimenez, now awaiting trial in Guatemala for the death of Cabral.

Fariña was driving Cabral - who had given a concert in Guatemala City the previous night - to La Aurora International Airport when they came under attack on a street on the Guatemalan capital's south side.

The Nicaraguan businessman told Guatemalan prosecutors that Jimenez was behind the attack, saying the Costa Rican had threatened to kill him for refusing to sell the Elite chain of adult nightclubs in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Authorities in Guatemala, however, said the attack was spurred by the theft of a drug consignment.

Fariña, who says he fears for his life, laundered roughly $9 million in drug money between 2005 and last year, according to the Nicaraguan indictment. EFE