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Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mexico's Interpol chief arrested

Federal police officers in Mexico
Investigations are under way into suspected officials

Mexico's main liaison officer with Interpol has been arrested as part of an inquiry into suspected links between officials and drug traffickers.

Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas was placed under house arrest. He can be held for up to 40 days while allegations against him are being investigated.

At least three other Mexican officials have been arrested in recent weeks in connection with "Operation Clean-up".

About 4,000 people have died this year in drugs-related violence in Mexico.

Correspondents say the surge in violence is related in part to the successes the Mexican authorities have had in recent months in arresting key members of powerful drug cartels.

Operation Clean-up is aimed at weeding out officials with alleged links to the traffickers.

Prosecutors say that Mr Gutierrez was arrested as part of an investigation into leaks of information to drug cartels.

The investigation stems from information prosecutors say was obtained following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva, an alleged leading member of the Sinaloa cartel in January.

Information obtained from Mr Beltran Leyva's arrest was said to confirm Mexican authorities' beliefs that the cartels have been bribing and working with senior officials to assist them with their illegal activities.

Investigators suspect the cartels may have paid officials up to $450,000 (300,000) a month in bribe money.

Those huge sums in bribe money may sound astounding, says BBC Latin America editor Emilio San Pedro, but the illegal drugs trade in Mexico is very big business.

The cartels control both the internal market and the lucrative flow of drugs across the border to the US, which is estimated to bring in more than $14bn a year.



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