Nicaragua begins trial for 24 accused narcos

(posted Aug. 22, 7 p.m.)- Nicaraguan prosecutors today began criminal proceedings against Nicaraguan strip club owner Henry Fariñas and 23 co-defendants who allegedly belong to a criminal gang that trafficked drugs and laundered money throughout Central America.

State prosecutors today said they have confiscated some $9.5 million in drug money during their investigation of Fariñas and his gang, which operated in various cells but was allegedly masterminded by Costa Rican Alejandro Jiménez, known by the nickname “El Palidejo,” or “paleface.”

Jiménez is currently behind bars in Guatemala for the 2011 murder of Argentine troubadour Facundo Cabral. Fariñas, Jiménez’s alleged criminal business partner in Nicaragua, is thought to have been the real target in Cabral hit (the two were riding in the same car at the time). Jiménez allegedly tried to knock off Fariñas for either stealing drug money or for refusing to sell his Managua strip club, Elite, which was allegedly used to launder drug money.

The details of the case, which for months have been a combination of media investigation, speculation and hearsay, will finally be clarified during the trial, which culminates Nicaragua’s most serious and complex criminal investigation in years, if not ever.

Also standing trial among the 24 defendants are ex-Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) magistrate Julio César Osuna, who is accused of using his position to traffic money from Costa Rica and issue fake Nicaraguan cédulas (state ID cards), and Nicaraguan businessman Guillermo Terán, who allegedly used his Harley Davidson motorcycle shop to launder drug money.

The prosecution is expected to call over 80 witnesses to the stand to testify against the 24 accused drug traffickers.