“Mexico frees drug lord Caro Quintero after 28 years in prison for killing of U.S. agent”

August 12, 2013

The Washington Post on August 9, 2013 released the following:

“By Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero walked free Friday after 28 years in prison when a court overturned his 40-year sentence for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, a brutal murder that marked a low point in U.S.-Mexico relations.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday it was extremely disappointed by the release of the man convicted in the killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, calling it “deeply troubling.”

Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said in a statement that he was “worried” about the court’s decision, adding that his office is analyzing whether there are any charges pending against Caro Quintero.

Caro Quintero, 60, was a founding member of one of Mexico’s earliest and biggest drug cartels. The court ruled Wednesday that he had been improperly tried in a federal court for a crime that should have been treated as a state offense. Prison officials were notified of the ruling on Thursday, and an official at the Jalisco state prosecutors’ office said the drug lord left prison before dawn on Friday. The official was not authorized to speak on the record.

News media were not alerted until hours after the release, and U.S. authorities apparently received no prior notification.

“The Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration learned today that early this morning Rafael Caro Quintero was released from prison,” said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr.

The DEA, meanwhile, said it “will vigorously continue its efforts to ensure Caro-Quintero faces charges in the United States for the crimes he committed. “

Caro Quintero still faces charges in the United States, but Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said it was unclear whether there was a current extradition request.

Apparently, the U.S. had requested his extradition for the Camarena killing — something Caro Quintero can’t be tried twice for — but may not have filed extradition requests for pending U.S. drug charges.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it “has continued to make clear to Mexican authorities the continued interest of the United States in securing Caro Quintero’s extradition so that he might face justice in the United States. “

Caro Quintero helped establish a powerful cartel based in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa that later split into some of Mexico’s largest cartels, including the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

He is still listed as one of the DEA’s five top international fugitives, and U.S. authorities believe he continued to control the laundering of drug money from behind bars.

“Caro Quintero continues to launder the proceeds from narcotics trafficking and he maintains an alliance with drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel, most notably with Esparragoza Moreno’s network,” said Treasury Department spokesman John Sullivan, referring to Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, also known as “El Azul,” or “Blue” because of the dark color of his skin, who is allegedly a top leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

In June, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against 18 people and 15 companies that allegedly moved money for Caro Quintero.

“Caro Quintero has used a network of family members and front persons to invest his fortune into ostensibly legitimate companies and real estate projects in the city of Guadalajara” said Adam Szubin, Director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Caro Quintero has spent almost his entire sentence at a prison on the outskirts of that city, Mexico’s second-largest city.

Mexico’s relations with Washington were badly damaged when Caro Quintero ordered Camarena kidnapped, tortured and killed, purportedly because he was angry about a raid on a 220-acre (89-hectare) marijuana plantation in central Mexico named “Rancho Bufalo” — Buffalo Ranch — that was seized by Mexican authorities at Camarena’s insistence.

Camarena was kidnapped on Feb. 7, 1985, in Guadalajara, a major drug trafficking center. His body and that of his Mexican pilot, both showing signs of torture, were found a month later, buried in shallow graves.

American officials accused their Mexican counterparts of letting Camarena’s killers get away. Caro Quintero was eventually hunted down in Costa Rica.

At one point, U.S. Customs agents almost blocked the U.S. border with Mexico, slowing incoming traffic to a standstill while conducting searches of all Mexicans trying to enter the United States.

Camarena’s fellow DEA agents considered him a hero in the war against drug trafficking and the El Paso Intelligence Center, where U.S. federal agencies collect information about Mexican drug barons, is dedicated to him.

Times have changed since the low point, and cooperation has strengthened, but Caro Quintero’s release Friday reopened old wounds.

Edward Heath, the former DEA regional director for Mexico at the time of the Camarena killing who was present during the identification of the agent’s body from dental records, said the release reflected a broader lack of cooperation with the U.S. from the new Mexican government, a contrast to the policy of former President Felipe Calderon.

“You had a president that was working very close with our government in a quiet way. These people come in and so, boom, the curtain comes down,” said Heath, now a private security consultant. “It means a disrespect for our government.”

He said he was skeptical of the explanation that there was a justifiable legal rationale for Caro Quintero’s release.

“There’s some collusion going on,” he said. “This guy is a major trafficker. This guy is bad, a mean son of a gun.”

Caro Quintero is said to have pioneered links between Colombian cocaine cartels and the Mexican smugglers who transport their drugs into the United States.

The ruling left many wondering why it took so many years for judges to determine Caro Quintero was tried in the wrong court.

“They were always ‘political’ prisoners serving sentences for as long as the U.S. kept up the pressure,” said a former DEA official who once worked in Mexico. He is not authorized to talk about the case because he still does work in Mexico.

“The bribe money to get them out was always there. Mexican ‘justice’ is always built on very weak foundations. And they seem to like it that way. Sad,” he added.

Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said the ruling may portend more such procedural rulings following the January freeing of French citizen Florence Cassez, who was convicted in Mexico for being part of a kidnapping ring.

The Frenchwoman served seven years of a 60-year sentence before Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 3-2 to release her in January because of procedural and rights violations during her arrest, including police staging a recreation of her capture for the media.

“What appears to be coming is an avalanche of judicial appeals, with the drug traffickers hiring very good, very expensive lawyers, arguing there were violations of due process,” said Benitez. “The government is going to have problems.”

Mexican courts and prosecutors have long tolerated illicit evidence such as forced confessions and have frequently based cases on questionable testimony or hearsay. Such practices have been banned by recent judicial reforms, but past cases — including those against high-level drug traffickers — are often rife with such legal violations.

“The government has to be prepared to keep an eye on judges so that they don’t fall into the easy argument of due process,” Benitez said, “because there may also be judges who are receiving money” to accept such arguments.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Mexican judges back extradition suspected drug queen to the US after previous attempts failed

June 8, 2012

The Washington Post on June 7, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — A panel of Mexican judges on Thursday agreed to the extradition of a suspected drug trafficker known as the “Queen of the Pacific,” who is wanted in the United States on cocaine-related charges.

The three federal appellate judges said Sandra Avila Beltran could be tried outside of Mexico, but only on one of the two charges prosecutors sought.

Avila cannot be tried for the seizure of more than nine tons of U.S.-bound cocaine off a vessel in Mexico’s western port of Manzanillo because a Mexican judge acquitted her in that case in December 2010. An appeals court upheld the verdict last August.

Previous requests to extradite the high-profile suspect have been denied twice by a panel and then by a judge, who argued that the confiscation of the nine tons of cocaine would inevitably be part of the foreign trial.

But the judges on Thursday ruled that Beltran has to answer to a charge stemming from several seizures in Chicago in 2001 that amounted to 100 kilograms of cocaine. The 2004 indictment in the Southern District of Florida does not specify Beltran’s role in the drug-dealing case.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department must re-file the extradition request to leave out the charge related to the Manzanillo seizure. The department did not respond on Thursday to a request by The Associated Press for comment.

Avila remains in a prison in the Mexican state of Nayarit, pending trial for a separate money-laundering charge. It was not immediately clear how Mexican prosecutors would proceed with that charge.

Avila, who was arrested in 2007 sipping coffee in a Mexico City diner, has said she is innocent. Her attorney could not be immediately reached for fresh comment.

Her case is widely known in Mexico because Avila is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, “the godfather” of Mexican drug smuggling who is serving a 40-year sentence for trafficking and the murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena in 1985.

Prosecutors have alleged that Avila spent more than a decade working her way to the top of Mexico’s drug trade. They say her romance with Colombian Juan Diego Espinoza brought together Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel with Colombia’s Norte del Valle.

The Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been locked in a vicious fight with violent Los Zetas gang in several regions of the country.

In the northern state of Tamaulipas, 14 bodies were abandoned Thursday inside a bus near the city hall building of Ciudad Mante. Soldiers deployed in the area found a message in which a gang took responsibility for the killings, according to a Tamaulipas statement. It did not say which gang or give more details.

Drug cartels often leave messages in crime scenes as a threat to enemies.

The bodies of the three women and 11 men have not been identified.

Also Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it is placing financial sanctions on a wife and son of Guzman, who is Mexico’s most-wanted man.

The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said that it had designated Maria Alejandrina Salazar Hernandez and Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 26, under the U.S. Kingpin Act. That bars American citizens from making business transactions with them and allows authorities to freeze their assets in the U.S.

Guzman escaped prison in 2001 and has evaded authorities ever since, moving from hideout to hideout as he directs the operations of his powerful cartel. The U.S. and Mexican government have been intensifying their actions against Guzman’s family in recent months.

Authorities in the U.S. and Mexico have said they believe Guzman has children with several partners, including an 18-year-old woman whom he married in an elaborate public ceremony in 2007. The Treasury Department described Salazar Hernandez, 53, as a wife of Guzman, without providing details.

The department last month announced sanctions against Guzman’s sons Ivan Archivaldo “El Chapito” Guzman Salazar, 31, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 22.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

————————————————————–

International criminal defense questions, but want to be anonymous?

Free Skype Tel: +1.202.470.3427, OR

Free Skype call:

           Office Locations

Email:


WikiLeaks: Cables Reveal Details Behind Bout’s Extradition

December 6, 2010

Not everything coming out of Cablegate is unflattering. Documents released by WikiLeaks this week have pulled back the curtain on the high-level coordination between the State Department, Department of Justice and the White House to bring alleged arms dealer Victor Bout — the so-called global “merchant of death” — to trial in the United States, including the existence of a dedicated “Bout team” within the U.S. embassy in Bangkok.

Thai authorities had arrested Bout in Bangkok in March of 2008 while he met with informants working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Yet Bout’s extradition proceedings dragged out for more than a year before he was brought to New York to face trial in federal court in Manhattan, where he was charged with four terrorism conspiracy counts related to a DEA sting in Thailand.

After a Thai judge ruled against Bout’s extradition in August of 2009, the U.S. ambassador to Thailand warned the newly endorsed Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of a potentially “major setback” in U.S. relations if “corruption and undue influence” had an impact on the case. Faced with the prospect that Bout could be released and allowed to return to Russia, Ambassador Eric. G. John recommended that both the State Department and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder call in the Thai ambassador to Washington to push for Bout’s extradition. The ambassador also recommended that the governments of Colombia, Sierra Leone and Liberia weigh in on Bout’s case to the Thai government.

Bout had long been in the crosshairs of the U.S. government. Over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, U.N. investigators linked Bout’s fleet of aircraft to arms shipments in Liberia and Sierra Leone. In 2004, President Bush signed an executive order placing sanctions on Bout and his business associates with ties to the United States. Shortly thereafter, Treasury Department officials froze any assets and financial transactions within U.S. jurisdiction through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). However, Bout eluded arrest despite being the subject of a sealed indictment in federal court in New York for violating those U.S. sanctions.

In my opinion, the U.S. government did everything they could possibly do to try to affect the outcome of the extradition process. However, I disapprove of Washington’s strong-arm methods, and needless to say, the cables have been both enlightening and disappointing. It is certainly worrisome to know the extents that the U.S. government went to in order to impact the decision-making process of judicial authorities in another country.

To read the full Time article, please click here.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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ACLU Granted Permission to Sue the U.S. Government

August 5, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union said the U.S. Treasury Department gave it permission to sue the government over an alleged policy of seeking to kill U.S. citizens abroad who are terrorism suspects.

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights said they were retained to bring the suit by the father of U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki, of Yemen, whom they say has been “targeted for death” without being charged or convicted. Al-Awlaki has been identified by the U.S. as a leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The ACLU and the Center sued the Treasury Department and its Office of Foreign Assets Control on August 2, claiming they violate the constitution by requiring, in some cases, a permit for lawyers to represent terrorism suspects.

Al-Awlaki, is identified on an OFAC list of “specially designated nationals” as a 39-year-old native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with dual citizenships, in the U.S. and Yemen.

An Islamic cleric, al-Awlaki is said by the U.S. to have ties to recent al-Qaeda attacks on American targets. He would be tried in Yemen if captured because the nation’s constitution forbids extradition of its citizens, said Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi in an interview with Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram.

Citing reports published in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, the ACLU and the Center allege in their complaint that the cleric is on a CIA target list. The CIA target list identifies those who are to be captured or killed. The government already tried to kill him using a drone aircraft, the lawsuit against Treasury claims.

In addition to their contemplated al-Awlaki lawsuit, the New York-based organizations said they’ll continue to press their case against the Treasury Department’s licensing regime.

In some cases, OFAC has issued a general license to authorize the provision of certain legal services to individuals on the Specially Designated Nationals list. Nevertheless, in most cases, attorneys are still required by law to obtain a specific license from OFAC authorizing payment for attorneys fees and expenses related to that representation. The process of obtaining a specific license from OFAC can be quite time consuming. Due to the high number of license applications at OFAC, determinations on simple license requests are averaging roughly two (2) months. Those seeking removal from the SDN list, should know that OFAC has substantial control over that list and the removal process could take several years. The process is long and grueling, and is often one-sided and biased.

OFAC’s director, Adam Szubin, said in a statement yesterday he was willing to discuss the licensing issue with the groups.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Colombian Drug Trafficker Extradited from Mexico to US

June 18, 2010

Pedro Antonio Bermudez, also known as “El Arquitecto,” was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., following his extradition on June 15, 2010, from Mexico to the United States on charges of participating in an alleged international drug trafficking conspiracy, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

At his arraignment yesterday, Bermudez was ordered detained by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack in the Eastern District of New York. Bermudez was arrested in Mexico City by Mexican law enforcement officials on Oct. 2, 2008, and was in custody in Mexico since the arrest and prior to his extradition to the United States.

The charges against Bermudez are contained in two separate indictments filed in the Eastern District of New York and the District of Columbia. The indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York charges Bermudez with allegedly working in Mexico as the intermediary for shipments of large quantities of cocaine sent by Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante, one of the leaders of the Norte Valle Cartel, to various Mexican cartel leaders. As alleged in the indictment, from 1990 through 2007, Bustamante and his organization sent multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico by speed boats, fishing vessels, and other maritime conveyances and airplanes, for ultimate delivery to the United States. Between 1990 and the present, the Norte del Valle Cartel allegedly exported more than 1.2 million pounds – or 500 metric tons – of cocaine, worth in excess of $10 billion, from Colombia to the United States, the vast majority of which moved through Mexico. Bustamante pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York on June 26, 2008, and is awaiting sentence.

When the cocaine arrived in Mexico, Bermudez was allegedly responsible for insuring its delivery to the Mexican cartels, including the Juarez Cartel, headed by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. Carrillo is currently a fugitive and is charged in the Eastern District of New York with alleged drug trafficking. The Juarez Cartel, which operates in the Juarez-El Paso corridor, is one of the primary drug smuggling routes along the United States-Mexico border. The DEA estimates that approximately 70% of the cocaine which enters the United States through Mexico is transported across the southwest border. The State Department, under its Narcotics Rewards Program, has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of Carrillo.

The indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charges Bermudez and co-defendant Andres Rodriguez-Fernandez with allegedly conspiring to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine knowing and intending that the cocaine will be imported into the United States between on or about 2001 and Sept. 25, 2008. The indictment also includes two substantive counts, charging the defendants with manufacturing and distributing five kilograms or more of cocaine knowing and intending that the cocaine will be imported into the United States on two separate occasions, March 31 and Sept. 24, 2007. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation.

On May 27, 2009, Bermudez was designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker. The designation freezes Bermudez’s assets in the United States and prohibits him from engaging in any financial transactions with any U.S. company or individual. Earlier this month, the government of Colombia seized 194 assets belonging to Bermudez, valued at approximately $76 million, including apartment buildings, malls, aircraft and ranches.

If convicted, Bermudez faces on both indictments a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life. The US worked with Mexican and Colombian officials to facilitate the investigation, arrest and extradition of Bermudez.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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