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Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 16:13 UK

Mexico ex-governor denies drugs, money laundering in US

Mario Villanueva in 2007
Mario Villanueva was arrested moments after his release in 2007

The former governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo has pleaded not guilty in New York to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

On Sunday, Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid became the most senior Mexican politician to be extradited to the US on drugs charges.

He allegedly helped the Juarez cartel smuggle hundreds of tons of cocaine from Colombia through Mexico to the US.

Mr Villanueva was governor of the Caribbean state from 1993 to 1999.

US prosecutor Preet Bharara has accused him of turning Quintana Roo "into a virtual narco-state, selling its infrastructure and even its police to one of the world's most dangerous mafia enterprises".

The Mexican prosecutor's office said he received between $400,000 (£270,000) and $500,000 for each Colombian cocaine shipment transported through his state to the US.

Mr Villanueva was sentenced to six years in prison in Mexico for money laundering in 2001. He was released in 2007, but re-arrested immediately when the US requested his extradition.

He could face life in prison if convicted on the drug charges alone.



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