September 19, 2017 / 3:37 AM / a month ago

Panama authorizes extradition of former Mexican governor on corruption charges

FILE PHOTO: Former governor of Mexico's Quintana Roo state Roberto Borge (C) is escorted by policemen while leaving a court of appeals in Panama City, Panama, June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Lemos/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Panama has agreed to extradite a former state governor from Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who is wanted in his homeland on corruption charges, the two countries said on Monday.

Roberto Borge, who from 2010 to 2016 was governor of the state of Quintana Roo, home to the tourist resort Cancun, was detained in Panama City airport in June with the aid of Interpol as he was preparing to board a flight to Paris.

Corruption promises to be one of the major issues in Mexico’s July 2018 presidential election, with public discontent widespread over a spate of conflict-of-interest rows that have dogged the Cabinet and President Enrique Pena Nieto himself.

The law bars Mexican presidents from seeking re-election.

Mexican prosecutors accuse Borge of using funds obtained illegally, embezzlement and abuse of public office.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry and the attorney general’s office said in a statement Panama’s Foreign Ministry had notified Borge that the extradition was going ahead.

Panama’s Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement that, after being notified, Borge announced that he would have his lawyers appeal against the extradition. The ministry did not give details of how the Mexican aimed to justify his appeal.

Borge had long been accused of corruption by opposition parties, although he has denied the allegations.

Other former PRI governors are also facing prosecution in the run-up to next year’s presidential contest.

Javier Duarte, who governed the Mexican state of Veracruz for the PRI until last year, was extradited from Guatemala to Mexico on July 17. He is accused of embezzlement and engaging in organized crime.

Writing by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Elida Moreno in PANAMA CITY; Editing by Leslie Adler and Paul Tait

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