US authorities have indicted a former Mexican governor accused of drug ties, undermining previous claims that one of Mexico's most prominent corruption cases was a political witch hunt.
Prosecutors in Texas have formally charged Tomas Yarrington with money laundering, drug trafficking and accepting millions of dollars in bribes from Mexico's Gulf Cartel in exchange for allowing the cartel to smuggle cocaine into the United States while he was governor, reported the BBC.
According to prosecutors, Yarrington began receiving payments from the Gulf Cartel while running for governor of border state Tamaulipas and continued to accept bribes throughout his 1999-2004 term. He allegedly invested some of these illicit funds in properties in Texas.
The indictment also accuses Yarrington of accepting cocaine as a payment for allowing access to Mexican ports.
The investigation into Yarrington first emerged in February 2012, when it was reported that Mexican federal authorities were looking into claims that he, along with two other recent former governors of Tamaulipas, had colluded with the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.
In August 2012, an international arrest warrant for Yarrington was issued after he had disappeared two months earlier. Following the most recent charges, Yarrington's lawyers denied he was in hiding but did not disclose his location.
InSight Crime Analysis
The case of Yarrington and the other Tamaulipas governors has been the biggest politics and drugs scandals to hit Mexico since the case of Mario Villanueva, the ex-governor of Quintana Roo, who was found to have colluded with the Juarez Cartel in the 1990s.
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With the details of Yarrington's case first emerging ahead of last year's presidential elections, there had been speculation it was a political witch hunt, designed to erode support for Yarrington's party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which at the time had a commanding lead in the polls.
While PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto went on to win the election, the case against Yarrington has just grown stronger. Now, with formal charges levied in the United States, claims that Yarrington's pursuit is politically motivated have even less credibility, despite his lawyers' continued insistence to the contrary.
Instead, this case and the investigations into the two other state governors appear to be clear examples of the sort of high level corruption common to criminal strongholds such as Tamaulipas, where first the Gulf Cartel and later the Zetas have been dominant.