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Nephew of Sinaloa cartel leader, likely successor, released from jail due to technicality

Martin Beltran Coronel, alias El Aguila, in a May 2011 file photo.

Martin Beltran Coronel, alias El Aguila, in a May 2011 file photo.  (AP)

A Mexican court has ordered the release of the nephew of deceased Sinaloa drug cartel leader Ignacio Coronel because of procedural violations, an embarrassment for officials who had portrayed the man as his uncle's likely successor.

The Federal Judiciary Council said late Wednesday the court had acquitted Martin Beltran Coronel and four co-defendants because of procedural violations at the time of his arrest in May 2011.

Beltran Coronel had been charged with organized crime and the other four faced money laundering charges.

The council said that soldiers who detained the five had entered a home without a search warrant. It also said that protected witnesses had improperly identified the five after being shown photo albums of potential suspects. Suspects are usually identified through a special form of line-up in Mexico.

At the time of Beltran Coronel's arrest, Mexico's Defense Department said he had taken over trafficking after his uncle died in a shootout with troops in 2010, overseeing trafficking from South America through western Mexico. They said nine guns, six cars, jewelry and $400,000 in cash were seized at the house in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara.

The release follows another major setback for prosecutors in a high-profile drug cases.

In August 2013, convicted drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero was freed after an appeals court overturned on procedural grounds his conviction in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.

Caro Quintero hasn't been seen in public since then. After his release, Mexican prosecutors issued an arrest warrant when Mexico's Supreme Court annulled the lower court's ruling.

Caro Quintero had served 28 years of a 40-year sentence.

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