MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Eighteen Mexican citizens must stand trial on charges they tried to smuggle about $9.2 million in cash through Nicaragua by posing as members of a Mexican television news crew, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Julio Cesar Arias said there is sufficient evidence to hold the 18 over for the trial, which will open Dec. 3.
The defendants entered Nicaragua travelling in six vans painted with the logo of Mexico's Televisa network. Televisa said it has no connection to the suspects.
They were detained in August just inside Nicaragua's northern border with Honduras. They were allegedly headed to Costa Rica.
Investigators say the money was apparently intended to pay for a drug shipment. Traces of cocaine were found on some of the bills hidden in the vans, officials say.
Rafael Magnalli, one of the lawyers for the defendants, argued the prosecutors' case is "subjective and speculative" and asked that the charges be dismissed.
The Mexicans reportedly told police they had come to Nicaragua to cover the trial of suspects linked to the 2011 killing of Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral. That trial also involves accusations of money laundering.
Some of the Mexicans work with private security companies in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, home to the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels.
Televisa has said it had no reporters in Nicaragua and did not send anyone there.