Nicaragua sentences 18 Mexicans to 30 years
Prosecutors said the money was a payment for drug-trafficking activities and its destination was Costa Rica. The defense insisted members of the group were not laundering drug money and that there was no proof of ties to organized crime. Lawyers said the defendants were only guilty of failing to declare the cash to customs.
"We will appeal this sentence because it doesn't make sense. It is not well founded and it's out of proportion," said Ricardo Ramirez, attorney of three defendants. "We are sure that a second court will reverse this because there are no legal grounds."
Manuel Arauz, dean of the Central American University's law school, said the punishment was harsh but adheres to the law against organized crime. They were given 34 to 35-year sentences but the constitution limits prison time to 30 years. Also, the Nicaraguan government wants to tell drug gangs and other nations that drug trafficking is severely punished there.
"This is a clear message to drug cartels and organized crime about what they should expect, but it's not only to drug traffickers, but also to other governments that cooperate with Nicaragua in the drug fight," Arauz said.
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