United States authorities captured a Mexican state's attorney general accused of being part of a drug trafficking ring, a rare case of a prosecutor being directly involved in the smuggling of narcotics into the United States.
Edgar Veytia, attorney general of Mexico's state of Nayarit, was arrested on March 27, in San Diego, California, reported El País.
In the indictment, New York's Eastern District charges Veytia with conspiring to smuggle heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into the US between the years of 2013 and 2017. (See indictment below)
Veytia was captured at a transit terminal that connects San Diego's and Tijuana's airports, according to National Public Radio. It's not clear if Veytia was on official business or fleeing.
SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles
Nayarit's Governor Roberto Sandoval refused to defend Veytia.
"Before Monday, I would have put my hands in the fire for him," Sandoval was quoted in El Universal as saying. "This fell on me like a bomb because for me, New York and Nayarit are like two different worlds. Edgar Veytia was not facing any charges in Mexico."
Sandoval appointed Carlos Alberto Rodríguez Valdés as the state's new attorney general.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the arrest of a high-level Mexican official in connection to drug trafficking interests does not appear to be anything new, the fact that a top prosecutor is accused of being directly involved in trafficking drugs is rather surprising.
Top prosecutors like Veytia rarely seem to be directly involved in the production or smuggling of narcotics. Instead, they more often operate as an extra layer of protection to shield criminals from judicial scrutiny.
Ties between Veytia and Mexican drug cartels had been reported. The attorney general had been linked with the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco - Nueva Generación - CJNG), a powerful drug trafficking group that has surged throughout the country in recent years. Authorities believe Veytia protected the CJNG's members. The US charges say he had an additional role -- that of assisting the movement of illegal narcotics. In 2011, he survived an assassination attempt carried out by members of the Sinaloa Cartel, a CJNG rival.
SEE ALSO: CJNG Profile
Veytia is not a small target. Mexican media also reported he was likely to be picked as the candidate for governor of Nayarit for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional - PRI) -- the party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto -- for the June 2017 elections.