Mexico drug lord Arellano gets 25 years in US prison
Apr 2, 2012, 22:19 GMT
Los Angeles - The one-time boss of a Mexican drug cartel was sentenced Monday to 25 years in US prison, the US Justice Department said.
A federal court in San Diego, California, issued the sentence against Benjamin Arellano-Felix, 58, who had earlier pleaded guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges. He was also ordered to forfeit 100 million dollars in criminal proceeds.
Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart called the sentence a 'major victory' for the agency and for Mexico.
'Together, we will continue our pressure on the Mexican Cartels whose leaders, members and facilitators will be prosecuted and face the justice they fear,' she said.
The sentence came as Mexican President Felipe Calderon met with US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House for a North American Leaders summit that focussed heavily on drug violence.
Obama stressed that the drug violence wracking Mexico should be 'everybody's problem' and that it impacts communities across North America. Calderon called on his US counterpart to take even more action to deal with weapons flowing south into his country that are arming drug cartels.
Tens of thousands have died in Mexico in drug-related violence since Calderon declared war on the drug cartels when he took office in 2006.
Pointing to an increase in violence after the expiration of an assault weapons ban in the US, Calderon said action, such as a registry to track such weapons, needed to be taken or 'we are never going to be able to stop the violence in Mexico or stop a future turning of those guns upon the US.'
The sentencing comes a year after Arellano-Felix was extradited from Mexico to stand trial in the United States.
The one-time chief of the Tijuana cartel during the organization's heyday, Arellano-Felix was jailed since 2002 in Mexico before his extradition. He had asked the US judge for credit for the nine years he already served in Mexico.
'A 25-year sentence is completely justified,' US District Judge Larry Burns was quoted as answering by the San Dieo Union-Tribune newspaper. 'If I had it within my powers, I would impose a longer sentence.'
The sentence was seen as relatively light, compared to the life sentences some of his brothers are serving in Mexico. But justice officials stressed he would spend the rest of his life in prison because he will later be returned to Mexico to serve a separate 22-year sentence.
The Arellano brothers operated a powerful drug cartel in north-western Mexico which smuggled large quantities of cocaine and other illegal drugs into the United States. Hundreds of murders were blamed on the gang. After the arrest of Benjamin Arellano-Felix, the cartel lost influence to other competing gangs.
The Mexican Attorney General's Office said last year that the drug lord 'was considered the operational and financial leader of the Arellano Felix organization.'
Also known by the nicknames 'Licenciado Alegria' or 'El Senor,' Arellano-Felix by last April had exhausted his lengthy appeals to avoid extradition.
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