Lawyers: Charges against ex-governor baseless

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MEXICO CITY (AP) - The charges against a former Mexican governor accused in the United States of money laundering and drug trafficking are based on false accusations by people trying to bargain with U.S. prosecutors, his lawyers said Thursday.

Attorney Joel Androphy said witnesses against former Tamaulipas state Gov. Tomas Yarrington gave false information to get leniency from the U.S. government.

"There is no credible evidence to support the charges," Androphy said at a news conference held with three Mexican lawyers for Yarrington.

U.S. prosecutors allege Yarrington received millions of dollars in bribes from the Gulf Cartel and in return allowed traffickers to smuggle large amounts of cocaine into the U.S.

According to the indictment unsealed this week, Yarrington first received payments in 1998 when he was a candidate for governor of Tamaulipas and the payoffs continued after the end of his tenure as governor in 2004. The indictment also alleges that in 2007-2009, Yarrington was involved in drug trafficking.

Another man indicted with Yarrington, Fernando Cano Martinez, is accused of paying bribes to Yarrington in exchange for public works contracts. One way he would pay bribes is by purchasing real estate for Yarrington using front names, the indictment charges.

Neither Cano nor Yarrington are in custody and are being sought by authorities. Yarrington's lawyers refused to say where he is.

U.S. prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Yarrington, but the Justice Department declined to comment on whether it had formally asked Mexico to arrest the former governor.

Yarrington was living in the United States when the investigation began in 2012 but U.S. authorities revoked his visa and asked him to leave the country, Androphy said.

"He is not a fugitive. He has never been a fugitive," the lawyer said. "He was asked to leave by the United States government in February 2012."

Androphy distributed a letter from the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros to Yarrington dated Feb. 21, 2012, in which he was told that his visa had been revoked because of "additional information" acquired by the United States after it was issued.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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