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Fugitive Mexican politician wanted on organised crime charges held in Guatemala

The former governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz who is accused of running a corruption ring has been detained in Guatemala after six months on the run.

Javier Duarte was seen as a high-profile symbol of government corruption in his country.

Mexico's Attorney General's Office said Duarte was detained on Saturday with the co-operation of Guatemalan police and the country's Interpol office.

He was in the municipality of Panajachel, which is a picturesque tourist town on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala's highlands.

Duarte was wanted on suspicion of money laundering and organised crime, and prosecutors directed the foreign relations department to request his extradition.

A photo released by Guatemalan police showed a bespectacled Duarte being escorted by Interpol agents.

Manuel Noriega, deputy director of Interpol in Guatemala, said Duarte was found at a hotel where he was staying with his wife.

He was asked to leave his room, did so voluntarily and then was arrested without incident in the lobby.

Mr Noriega said Duarte would be taken before a judge to consider his possible extradition.

Duarte, 43, was governor of Veracruz from 2010 until he left office on October 12 2016, two months before the scheduled end of his term.

He said he was doing so in order to face the allegations against him.

At the time he denied having links to phantom businesses that allegedly won state contracts, and said he had not stolen a single peso of state money or diverted government funds overseas.

"I don't have foreign accounts," he said last year. "I don't have properties anywhere."

Duarte promptly disappeared and had been sought by Mexican authorities ever since. Earlier this year Interpol issued a notice for his capture.

The Mexican government has found millions of dollars purportedly linked to Duarte, frozen more than 100 bank accounts and also seized property and businesses tied to the former governor.

A reward of 15 million pesos (£583,000) had been offered for his capture.

The detention comes a week after Tomas Yarrington, the former governor of Mexico's Tamaulipas state, was arrested in Italy, also on allegations of organised crime and money laundering.

Another ex-governor, Cesar Duarte of Chihuahua state, is also wanted on suspicion of corruption and is said to have fled to El Paso, Texas. He is not related to Javier Duarte.

All three ex-governors were members of the ruling Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The party, which expelled Javier Duarte on October 25 last year, and has sought to distance itself from him, applauded the arrest.

"The PRI calls for all the relevant investigations to be carried out and, respecting due process, for the ex-governor of Veracruz to be punished in an exemplary fashion, as well as anyone who is confirmed to have taken part in his criminal ring," the party said.

Duarte became a powerful symbol of alleged corruption during mid-term elections last year in which the PRI lost several governorships, including Veracruz, that it had held uninterrupted since its founding in 1929.

He has also been widely criticised for rampant violence in the state during his administration, as drug cartels fought for territory and thousands of people were killed or disappeared.

The dead include at least 16 journalists killed in Veracruz during his six years in office.

AP

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