Former Mexican governor jailed in US for money laundering plot

Politician sentenced in New York to 11 years after admitting plot to launder money

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 June, 2013, 6:38am


A former governor of a Mexican state who admitted conspiring to launder money in a New York drug case has been sentenced to just under 11 years in prison, but may face as little as three more years behind bars in the United States.

Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, 64, was sentenced in US District Court in Manhattan to 10 years and 11 months in prison after he pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was originally accused of conspiring to import hundreds of tons of cocaine.

Villanueva, a former governor of Quintana Roo, has been jailed since 2001, when he was first charged with similar crimes in Mexico.

Defence attorney Richard Lind said he was pleased with the sentence, saying it was likely that Villanueva Madrid will serve only about three years in prison once he is credited with time he has already served in Mexican and US prisons and gets additional credit for good behaviour.

Carlos Villanueva, Villanueva Madrid's son, said outside court that his father faces a 23-year sentence in Mexico once he is freed from US prison, but was likely to be credited for some of the time he has already been in custody. He said the case in Mexico was under appeal.

Carlos Villanueva, the mayor of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, said his father was "absolutely" innocent of charges that he worked with drug cartels and was victimised by political foes, including a former president of Mexico when Villanueva Madrid was a governor in the 1990s.

Prosecutors said Villanueva, who had previously served as mayor of Cancun, was elected governor of Quintana Roo in April 1993. They said he entered into an agreement with the Juarez cartel to ensure cocaine shipments were not interrupted by authorities.

They said the cartel paid him millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds between 1994 and 1999, money he eventually transferred to bank accounts in the US, Switzerland, the Bahamas, Panama and Mexico.