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FILE PHOTO: Javier Duarte de Ochoa, former governor of Mexican state Veracruz, gestures from inside a vehicle while leaving after a court appearance for extradition proceedings in Guatemala City, Guatemala, July 4, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria/ File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

By Sofia Menchu

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala is ready to turn over to Mexico next week a former state governor wanted on charges of embezzlement and organised crime, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, in a case that further tarnished the Mexican ruling party's record on corruption.

Javier Duarte, who governed the Gulf state of Veracruz for President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) until last year, could be returned to Mexico on July 17, Guatemalan foreign ministry spokesman Tekandi Paniagua said.

"Mexico has proposed July 17 at nine in the morning for the extradition," Paniagua said.

The Mexican government gave no immediate comment on the widely expected announcement by Guatemala.

Under Duarte's rule, the oil-rich state of Veracruz saw a spike in gang violence and kidnappings. Accusations of widespread corruption in his administration became an embarrassment for Pena Nieto, who was widely criticized for not taking action more quickly against his former ally.

Duarte, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested in Guatemala in April after more than five months on the run.

He disappeared last October after taking leave of office and authorities issued an arrest warrant.

He is now facing state-level and federal charges relating to accusations he used state institutions to funnel public funds into private companies.

Duarte has been held in a military prison in the Guatemalan capital since his arrest.

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Reuters