Captured Mexican governor could be extradited to U.S. or Mexico

FILE PHOTO: Tomas Yarrington poses after a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico May 23, 2005. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A former state governor for Mexico’s ruling party arrested in Italy at the weekend could be extradited to his homeland or the United States, where he faces a string of criminal charges linked to drug trafficking, authorities said on Monday.

Tomas Yarrington, a former governor of Tamaulipas state for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was accused in 2013 by a federal grand jury in Texas of taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Gulf Cartel and other traffickers.

Yarrington is also wanted on trafficking charges in Mexico, where his lengthy avoidance of capture led to frequent opposition accusations that President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government was not trying hard to catch the former PRI grandee.

The Mexican attorney general’s office said the government would in coming days submit a request for Yarrington’s extradition to Mexico, where he faces up to 20 years in prison, but noted he could also be sent to the United States.

“It’s a decision the Italian authorities will have to evaluate and make,” Alberto Elias Beltran, a senior official at the attorney general’s office, told a news conference.

Yarrington, who has not made any public statement since his arrest in Florence, faces the prospect of two life sentences if convicted in the United States, Elias said.

Yarrington governed Tamaulipas between 1999 and 2005, and is one of several politicians in the PRI facing prosecution for suspected corruption. He was suspended from the PRI in 2012.

The PRI, which has also been dogged by accusations of corruption under Pena Nieto, faces an uphill struggle to retain the presidency in 2018. PRI lawmakers say privately the party needs to go after corrupt officials to boost its credibility.

Reporting by Noe Torres; Editing by Dave Graham, Robert Birsel