Europe

Spain jails Latin Kings gang boss Vara Velastegui

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The three most senior leaders of a Spanish gang that grew out of a violent Hispanic organisation have been jailed by a court in Madrid.

The gang's Ecuadorean boss, Eric Javier Vara Velastegui, is already in prison but prosecutors said he continued to run the gang while under lock and key.

He was sentenced to four more years, with key lieutenants sentenced to two years and three-and-a-half years.

The Latin Kings grew in 1940s Chicago and later spread through the US.

According to the judgement the organisation was based fundamentally on violence, both towards its own members and towards rival gangs, Spain's Efe news agency reports.

Most members of the Latin Kings are thought to be migrants from Latin America.

It retains its violent reputation even though some efforts have been made to integrate the gang into local culture, especially in Catalonia, where it is not banned.

Anonymous testimony

Known by the codename King Wolverine, Vara Velastegui is regarded as the "king of kings" among Spain-based gangs, according the the country's El Pais newspaper.

Jose Fabricio Icaza, known as The Prince, was given a three-and-a-half-year term, while Maria Torres - The Godmother - was sentenced to two years.

As well as jailing the three gang leaders, the Madrid court ordered the Latin Kings to be disbanded, in line with a previous ruling from 2007. Prosecutors said that judgement was flouted by Vara Velastegui.

He is already behind bars serving a sentence for murder but is thought to have retained control of the Latin Kings criminal network while serving his time.

The sentences end a long legal battle by the gang members, who had appealed against earlier judgements ordering the dissolution of the group.

They claimed that testimony given anonymously in court during a previous trial had infringed their rights by preventing them from knowing the identity of their accusers.

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