Spanish authorities have detained the ex-governor of Mexico's northern Coahuila state on corruption charges, a case that highlights the protection still enjoyed by Mexican political elites in their own country.
Former Coahuila governor Humberto Moreira was arrested by Spanish police after landing at Madrid's Barajas International Airport on January 15, reported ABC News. Under investigation by Spain's Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, Spanish authorities ordered Moreira's arrest on allegations of money laundering, reported El Español.
According to The New York Times, Moreira became Coahuila's governor in 2005, leaving office in 2011 to become the head of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional - PRI) -- the party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. During his time as governor, Coahuila's debt jumped to a massive $35 billion, and Moreira is believed to have embezzled millions from the state's treasury, reported El Daily Post. (See El Daily Post video below)
Moreira served as the PRI's leader for less than a year before resigning amid embezzlement accusations. According to El Español, in 2014 Mexican businessman Rolando González-Treviño made a deal with US investigators and admitted to embezzling Coahuila public funds. In his confession he accused Moreira of being the head of this graft network, and in 2015 a US court formally accused Moreira of embezzling public funds.
In 2013, Moreira placed seventh on Forbes' list of the 10 most corrupt Mexicans.
Additionally, sources told El Español that Spanish investigators have evidence Moreira served as a "subordinate" and money launderer for Mexico's hyper-violent criminal group, the Zetas. In 2012, Moreira's son was gunned down and killed, something Moreira claimed was revenge for the killing of a Zetas leader's nephew during his governorship. El Español's sources, however, claim the murder was actually in response to Moreira laundering money without the Zetas' consent.
SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profile
During a preliminary hearing on January 22, a Spanish judge released Moreira from jail, but confiscated his passport and ordered him to remain in Spain while investigations continue.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although the Zetas are a shadow of their former power, and Moreira's alleged crimes date back several years, the case speaks to the level of impunity Mexican elites still enjoy within their own country.
Indeed, despite numerous accusations of corruption, Mexico appears to have done little to investigate Moreira's shady activities. As The New York Times indicates, Moreira was an ally of Mexican President Peña Nieto, having served as the head of the PRI prior to Peña Nieto's 2012 election. This suggests Moreira may have enjoyed protection from the highest of political offices in Mexico.
Regardless, Moreira's detention in Spain is an embarrassment for Mexico's political and judicial system, and highlights the continued impunity government officials receive when facing allegations of corruption and malfeasance.