CRIME

Mexican Cartel 'Queen Of The Pacific' To Be Released From Prison

CORRECTS TO REPLACE "CONVICTED" WITH "ACCUSED" - FILE - This Sept. 28, 2007 file photo released by the Mexican Attorney Gener
CORRECTS TO REPLACE "CONVICTED" WITH "ACCUSED" - FILE - This Sept. 28, 2007 file photo released by the Mexican Attorney General's Office (PGR) shows Sandra Avila Beltran after she was arrested by federal agents outside a restaurant in Mexico City. A Mexican official says on Aug. 20, 2013 that accused drug trafficker Sandra Avila has returned to Mexico from the U.S. and has been handed over to Mexican authorities. She was sentenced to 70 months in prison in Miami federal court in July 2013 and released for time served in Mexico. Avilaᅢ까タᅡルs lawyer says she faces a money-laundering charge in Guadalajara, Mexico. (AP Photo/PGR, File)

(Updates with official confirmation, details)

MEXICO CITY, Feb 7 (Reuters) - A jailed Mexican drug smuggler known as the "Queen of the Pacific" is to be released after partially completing a five-year sentence on money-laundering charges, the attorney general's office said on Saturday.

A federal judge in Mexico's western Jalisco state accepted the appeal of Sandra Avila Beltran and ordered her immediate release, saying her five-year sentence was based on the same crime that triggered previous stints behind bars.

Avila Beltran, the highest-profile woman linked to Mexico's drug trade, was expected to be set free later on Saturday, a federal security official said on condition of anonymity.

Avila Beltran was sentenced to a nearly six-year prison term in the United States before being extradited to Mexico in 2013 to face money-laundering charges.

Her incarceration in both Mexico and the United States stemmed from charges that she provided money to former Colombian drug lord Juan Diego Espinosa to help him avoid arrest.

In 2014, she was sentenced to the five-year prison term in Mexico.

The attorney general's office said in a statement on Saturday that it was not permitted by law to appeal the judge's order.

Avila Beltran was first detained in Mexico in 2007. She allegedly helped build the Sinaloa cartel in the 1990s with Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted drug boss until he was captured early last year.

Avila Beltran, niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade, was extradited to the United States in August 2012.

She is known as "Queen of the Pacific" because of her success developing smuggling routes along Mexico's Pacific Coast into California. (Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Dan Grebler; Editing by David Gregorio)

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