Mexican court backs extradition of drug cartel "queen"

Thu Jun 7, 2012 9:22pm EDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican court cleared the way on Thursday for authorities to extradite Sandra Avila, Mexico's highest-profile woman drug smuggler and known as the "Queen of the Pacific", to face trafficking charges in the United States.

An appellate court overturned a previous injunction blocking her extradition, the council overseeing the nation's courts said in a statement.

Avila, who was arrested in Mexico in 2007, allegedly helped build up the Sinaloa cartel in the 1990s with the gang's leader Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. She won her nickname for pioneering smuggling routes up Mexico's Pacific Coast into California.

Guzman has become Mexico's most wanted man since President Felipe Calderon sent the army out to battle drug gangs in late 2006. The country's drug war has claimed more than 55,000 lives since then.

Avila was nabbed on organized crime and money laundering charges in Mexico and had been fighting extradition by claiming that she would be tried for the same crimes twice.

The judges ruled that Avila could be extradited to face charges for smuggling 100 kg (220 lb) of cocaine into Chicago between June and September 2001, but not for allegedly bringing over 9 tonnes of the drug into a Mexican port.

Her extradition is now at the discretion of the country's foreign ministry, the court council said.

Avila is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade.

Mexican court backs extradition of drug cartel queen | Reuters