Authorities are trying to detain the embattled former governor of Veracruz state, who is under investigation for alleged corruption and whose whereabouts are unknown, a senior Mexican official said Wednesday.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told Radio Formula that officials weren't sure where Javier Duarte was, but thought he was in the country because immigration authorities had no record of him departing.
Still, he said federal prosecutors were preparing a request for Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant if he was found to have left. Duarte was last seen in the state capital of Xalapa, Osorio Chong added.
"Security agencies are working to locate him," he said.
Duarte stepped down as governor October 12, a month and a half before his term was supposed to end. At the time, he said he wanted to confront the corruption allegations, which he has denied. The governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has stripped Duarte of his party rights.
Prosecutors have opened at least two investigations targeting the ex-governor for possible illegal enrichment, embezzlement and breach of public duty.
The attorney general's office announced Tuesday that two women had been arrested for their likely involvement with illicit funds and organized crime. Authorities said only that they were part of the Veracruz case, but a federal official who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity said they were "fronts" for Duarte and helped launder money for him.
Critics say vast sums of state funds disappeared during the nearly six years Duarte led Veracruz, which has been plagued by rising drug gang violence as the Zetas and Jalisco New Generation cartels battle for control in the Gulf Coast state.
At least 16 journalists were killed in Veracruz during Duarte's time in office, and hundreds of people have disappeared.
In June, the PRI lost the Veracruz governorship for the first time since the party was founded over eight decades ago.
Governor-elect Miguel Angel Yunes accuses Duarte of looting the state government, and he campaigned on promises to hold him accountable.
"Javier Duarte departs with his pockets full and leaves a Veracruz on fire," Yunes said.
In August, Duarte expressed willingness to cooperate with prosecutors and traveled to Mexico City to make his own corruption allegations against Yunes.
Prosecutors are also hunting for former Sonora state Governor Guillermo Padres, of the conservative National Action Party, on suspicion of corruption.