MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The extradition of a former state governor for Mexico’s ruling party arrested in Guatemala at the weekend on corruption charges could take up to a year, a senior Mexican official said on Monday.
Javier Duarte, who until last year governed Veracruz state for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), became a symbol of corruption in Mexico and his case is highly politicized with elections looming.
Duarte, who has denied any wrongdoing, faces prosecution for embezzlement and organized crime in Mexico and his successor as governor, Miguel Angel Yunes, has accused him of siphoning off billions of pesos from the oil-rich state of Veracruz.
How quickly Duarte faces charges in Mexico would depend on whether he chooses to fight extradition from Guatemala, said Alberto Elias Beltran, a deputy attorney general responsible for international affairs at the Mexican Attorney General’s Office.
“In our experience in the attorney general’s office on extraditions with Guatemala, we’re talking about six months to a year,” Elias said on Mexican television when asked how quickly Duarte could be extradited to his homeland.
Still, a lawyer acting for Duarte said at the weekend he believed the former governor would accept his extradition.
Elias said if Duarte did not fight the process, he could be back in Mexico in two to three months, and that the government would be trying to extradite him as fast as possible.
Asked why Duarte’s wife had not been arrested, Elias said investigators did not presently have evidence to link her to the accusations laid before the former governor.
Separately, Duarte’s successor Yunes, a member of the center-right opposition, told Mexican radio it was hard to say exactly how much money the former PRI grandee had stolen.
But Yunes said Duarte had acquired 10 residential properties worth millions of dollars worldwide, including in Arizona, New York, Spain, Miami and various parts of Mexico.
Critics of Pena Nieto say Duarte’s arrest was intended to shore up support for the PRI ahead of a crucial state election in June and the presidential elections next year.
The government, which has been dogged by allegations of corruption and conflicts of interests, denies this. The PRI faces an uphill battle to hold on to the presidency in 2018.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Andrew Hay)