An Argentine court has sentenced a former Colombian beauty queen to six years and eight months in prison for her role at the head of a cocaine trafficking network that ran from Argentina to Europe.
Angie Sanclemente, dubbed the "narcomodelo," was convicted on November 2 of attempting to traffic narcotics out of the country. She is accused of recruiting young female drug mules to smuggle drugs into Mexico and, from there, on to Europe.
Sanclemente’s Argentine boyfriend, Nicolas Gualco, and his uncle, Daniel Monroy, were also sentenced to six years and eight months imprisonment for the same crime.
A police investigation began in December 2009 when Argentine model Maria Noel Lopez was arrested at a Buenos Aires airport and found in possession of 55 kilos of cocaine. She was attempting to board a flight to Cancun, Mexico. Following a confession by Lopez, police uncovered an international drug smuggling operation, headed by Sanclemente, her boyfriend and his uncle, and dedicated to recruiting Argentinean models to smuggle drugs into Mexico in exchange for $5,000.
Sanclemente, once crowned Colombia's “Queen of Coffee” in a beauty pageant, has vigorously protested her innocence. She claims her only crime was falling in love with Nicolas Gualco and has indicated her belief that her nationality had much to do with the guilty verdict.
Sanclemente's is not the first indication that Colombian drug trafficking networks are setting up shop in Argentina. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that this is something of a trend, as Colombian traffickers are being driven out of their country following a heightened crackdown by security forces. According to Colombian newspaper El Pais, “the Colombian drug trade has shifted to the south of the continent.” Argentina, as an important transshipment point for trafficking drugs to Europe, is now becoming a favored base for drug kingpins as part of this trend.