MEXICO CITY — Mexico may soon be welcoming home Sandra Avila Beltran, the so-called Queen of the Pacific, who gained infamy here after being accused, though never convicted, of being a rare female shot-caller in the drug world.
The Mexican press, citing unnamed Mexican government sources Thursday, reported that Avila would probably be sent back to her native country very soon, perhaps before the end of the day.
The 52-year-old was reportedly in a Texas detention center awaiting repatriation. She was arrested in 2007 on drug-trafficking charges in Mexico but was acquitted by a judge here. Last year, however, she was extradited to the United States, which accused her of conspiring to import cocaine.
In a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty to one charge of being an accessory to a crime for helping hide her drug dealer boyfriend from authorities. A federal judge in July gave her credit for time served, setting her on the path back to Mexico.
Officials suspected that Avila once served as a crucial link between South American suppliers and Mexicans involved in helping move drugs northward toward the U.S. border. Her insouciance, vanity and insistence that she was an innocent soccer mom type fueled intense media interest here in her case.
What happens when she returns to Mexico remains unclear. In late July, a spokesman for the Mexican attorney general’s office told the Los Angeles Times that Avila faced no further legal proceedings. And on Thursday, officials from Mexico’s immigration service told the Mexican news service Milenio that they were unaware of any arrest orders against her. [Link in Spanish]
However, a Mexican attorney who claims to represent Avila has said she still faces an outstanding charge of “operating with illicit proceeds” and would be apprehended upon arrival in the country.
The return to Mexico of the so-called Reina del Pacifico comes as the country is trying to avert a diplomatic crisis over an appeals tribunal’s surprising decision last week to free Rafael Caro Quintero, a notorious drug lord who was serving a 40-year sentence for arranging the 1985 slaying of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Caro Quintero’s case was thrown out on a technicality. He walked out of a prison in Jalisco state early Friday after serving 28 years behind bars, but numerous charges against him are still pending in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Mexican government acknowledged that the U.S. had filed a preliminary extradition order in the case.
Mexican authorities are presumably searching for him.