The well-connected Salvadoran drug trafficker alias "Repollo" has been sentenced to 77 years in prison, following a trial that exposed a wide-ranging Central American cocaine smuggling network, in what is a rare victory for El Salvador's justice system.
Jorge Ernesto Ulloa Sibrian, alias "Repollo," received his sentence from a San Salvador court on November 24, reported El Diario de Hoy.
Nine other members of his network, including the coordinator of the structure Repollo led, received sentences ranging from five to 60 years in prison, reported La Prensa Grafica. Six others were exonerated of all charges.
El Salvador's Attorney General's Office (PGR) originally accused Repollo, who was arrested in Guatemala in March 2013, of leading a network that moved some 10 tons of cocaine and $7.5 million between 2005 and 2012. However, the conviction was ultimately based on five specific cocaine seizure cases, reported La Prensa Grafica. Prosecutors said testimony from four witnesses was key in determining his guilt, reported El Diario de Hoy.
According to La Prensa Grafica, Repollo still faces separate money laundering charges.
InSight Crime Analysis
The conviction and hefty sentence handed to Repollo is a rarity for a justice system, which has a history of weakness when it comes to prosecuting high level drug traffickers.
One of El Salvador's most infamous drug traffickers, Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, alias "Chepe Luna," evaded capture and prosecution for years, and his criminal activities only came to an end when he was shot to death in Honduras this past summer. Meanwhile, the three alleged founders of the country's Texis Cartel, one of El Salvador's main drug transport groups, all remain free, after two of them dodged tax evasion charges and the other was absolved of car theft charges.
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All of these kingpins share something in common: extensive high-level contacts. Repollo is no exception. Beginning as a small time drug transporter, he allegedly built up his network with the help of politicians, police and other criminal leaders. He worked with the Texis Cartel and with other drug trafficking cells across much of Central America -- including the Valles clan in Honduras.
The question now is whether these official collaborators will ever face sanctions. One of them, imprisoned alternate congressman Wilver Rivera Monge, currently stands accused of laundering money for Repollo's structure.