A former leader of Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, and one-time close ally of President Enrique Pena Nieto has been arrested in Spain, officials said on Friday.
Humberto Moreira was PRI chairman in 2011 before he stood down after a debt scandal was uncovered in Coahuila — the northern state he had previously governed.
Moreira was arrested in Madrid's international airport in an operation against money laundering, embezzlement, as well as bribery and criminal association, a Spanish official said. The arrest was ordered by judge Santiago Pedraz after US authorities formally requested his detention.
According to the newspaper El Español, the investigation includes probing transfers over the last 10 months of 2013 that amounted to 200,000 euros.
Moreira's former finance secretary in Coahuila pled guilty in Texas to federal money laundering charges in 2014. Jorge Torres López, who replaced him as interim governor, is also wanted in the United States on suspicion of embezzling millions.
Moreira had resigned the governorship in 2011 to become party chairman in the run up to the presidential elections the following year that put Peña Nieto in power.
Moreira was forced to resign as party leader after an investigation launched by the government of President Felipe Calderón revealed that Coahuila's debts had multiplied while he was governor.
Some of the debt, which was then worth close to $3 billion dollars, had been contracted with falsified paperwork.
Moreira, whose older brother Rubén now governs Coahuila, moved to Spain for a time after he stood down as PRI boss. More recently, PRI officials said he had returned to Mexico.
President Pena Nieto has faced criticism for failing to go after PRI officials accused of graft, including Moreira and three former governors belonging to the party who have been indicted in the United States.
The Spanish Police announced the arrest of Moreira on twitter mid-day Friday with the hashtag #MisiónCumplida, Mission Accomplished.
When Enrique Peña Nieto announced the arrest of drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán a week ago on Twitter, he also used the phrase Mission Accomplished.
Mexican presidential spokesman Eduardo Sánchez told a news conference that the government had no information on the matter. A PRI spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Mexican Newspaper La Jornada quoted an anonymous source close to the Coahuilan politician as saying his arrest was due "to migration issues; there is no political or judicial persecution against him."
Coahuila was wracked by violent turf wars under Moreira's rule after the brutal Zetas drug cartel moved into the state. Moreira's son José Eduardo was shot dead by suspected members of the gang near the state border with Texas in October, 2012.
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