Nicaraguan officials have arrested 18 individuals posing as Mexican journalists on assignment to cover a high-profile criminal trial in the Central American country, accusing them of criminal ties and seizing at least seven million dollars in hard currency.
The individuals, at least 17 of whom are Mexican citizens according to Proceso, apparently entered Nicaragua on August 22 and told customs officials that they were employees of Televisa, a Mexican mass media company. Although they were traveling in six vans bearing the Televisa logo their media identification cards proved to be forged, and when contacted Televisa representatives claimed that they had no affiliation with the company.
The individuals said they had been tasked with covering the trial of Henry Fariñas, the Nicaraguan businessman who was with Argentine folksinger Facundo Cabral in Guatemala City in July 2011 when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle, killing the musician and injuring Fariñas. Fariñas is accused of facilitating drug shipments and money laundering activities for various drug trafficking organizations in the region.
Upon searching their vehicles, police found that the group had been attempting to smuggle in at least seven million dollars' worth of hard currency into the country.
InSight Crime Analysis
As this story is still developing, little has been released about the identities of the 18 suspects, or of their true motives for entering Nicaragua. However, what little information has been made public suggests that this incident is directly linked to the Henry Fariñas trial.
Proceso reports that one of the men arrested, Manuel de Jesus Herrera Pineda, has ties to an export company operated by "Los Charros," a Mexico-based gang. As it happens, Fariñas is believed to have worked directly with the Los Charros gang to smuggle drugs from Costa Rica into Nicaragua. Why the group was seeking access to the trial is not clear.