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Mexico seeks ex-governor accused of corruption

An activist sticks posters with the image of Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte reading "State without law" outside the representative office of the Veracruz state in Mexico City in August 2015 (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez)

Mexico City (AFP) - The Mexican authorities are seeking to arrest a former governor who has disappeared as he faces charges of organized crime and money laundering, officials said Wednesday.

Javier Duarte has not been seen for days after he resigned as governor of the crime-plagued eastern state of Veracruz last week.

A judge issued an arrest warrant for him on organized crime and money laundering charges, Attorney General Arely Gomez said.

He is among nine people sought by the authorities, two of whom were detained on Tuesday, Gomez added.

Duarte was last seen in Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said, adding that "security and intelligence agencies are working to locate him."

The National Migration Institute has no record of him leaving the country, he said.

"That is why we believe that he could still be in the country," Osorio Chong told Radio Formula.

But the government will also request an international arrest warrant from Interpol, he said.

The attorney general's office is investigating Duarte on allegations of illegal enrichment, embezzlement and breach of official duty.

The federal tax agency is looking into claims that his administration signed $174 million in contracts with dozens of shell companies.

Duarte has rejected the allegations, and vowed to fight the charges when he resigned on October 12, less than two months before his six-year term was set to end.

President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) suspended Duarte's party rights last month.

Veracruz, an oil-rich state on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, has been marred by drug cartel violence, the murder of 19 journalists and a wave of disappearances in the past six years.

Term limits barred Duarte from running for re-election in June and the PRI lost the gubernatorial race to a left-right coalition candidate who took down the ruling party in a state it had governed for decades.

Governor-elect Miguel Angel Yunes, set to take office on December 1, has alleged that Duarte left Veracruz in a helicopter, but did not offer serious proof.

Osorio Chong denied that the Pena Nieto administration let Duarte flee.