July 17, 2017 / 4:33 PM / 2 years ago

Disgraced ex-governor extradited from Guatemala to Mexico

Javier Duarte, former governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, reacts while escorted by police before being extradited to Mexico, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in this handout photograph released by Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINEX) on July 17, 2017. MINEX/Handout via REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A former state governor from Mexico’s ruling party wanted for embezzlement and organized crime arrived in the country on Monday after being extradited from Guatemala, the Mexican government said.

Javier Duarte, who until last year governed the Gulf coast state of Veracruz for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is suspected of siphoning off millions of dollars during his tenure.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Wearing handcuffs and a bulletproof vest, Duarte was transferred on Monday morning from the military prison where he had been held since his arrest to Guatemalan Air Force facilities, where he set off for Mexico.

The 43-year-old landed in Mexico City airport a few hours later. Official video footage showed him disembarking from a government plane, and being led away by armed guards.

Duarte’s case has become emblematic of government failure to root out corruption, undermining support for the PRI, which has been Mexico’s dominant party for most of the past century.

Elected governor in 2010, he is alleged to have acquired luxury properties in Mexico and abroad, defrauding taxpayers of sums some estimates put in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and using shell companies to transfer and hide public funds.

Duarte was arrested in Guatemala in April after more than five months on the run.

Corruption is shaping up to be one of the focal points of next year’s presidential election, with opinion polls showing the PRI is seriously at risk of being voted out of office.

Reporting by Julia Love in Mexico City and Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang

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