A former federal lawmaker and high-ranking official of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was released from prison today after a judge rejected an appeal that challenged his acquittal on corruption charges.
Alejandro Gutiérrez, who served as assistant secretary general of the party’s National Executive Committee between 2015 and 2016 and has also served in both houses of Congress, was placed in preventative custody nine months, accused of embezzlement.
He is alleged to have operated an embezzlement scheme that diverted 250 million pesos (US $13.4 million) to the administration of former Chihuahua governor César Duarte.
The funds were allegedly used to fund PRI candidates in the 2016 state elections.
But the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) withdrew the charges against Gutiérrez last month, stating it didn’t have sufficient evidence.
A federal judge subsequently ruled that Gutiérrez had no case to answer to.
The government of Chihuahua, now led by National Action Party (PAN) Governor Javier Corral, challenged Gutiérrez’s absolution but Judge Isabel Porras Odriozola ruled that the appeal was inadmissible.
Gutiérrez’s defense said in a statement that the judge determined that the Chihuahua government’s legal counsel is not legally entitled to file such a challenge.
“This ruling confirms that any legal recourse filed by the Chihuahua government will not be successful and consequently once exonerated, [Gutiérrez] must be immediately released,” lawyer Antonio Collado Mocelo wrote.
“This means that the federal judicial power once again confirmed that there was not enough evidence to prove the alleged guilt of Alejandro Gutiérrez.”
Gutiérrez’s release at 4:00am today was confirmed to the newspaper Reforma by Chihuahua Attorney General César Augusto Peniche, who was highly critical of the process and the rulings that allowed it.
“It’s confirmation that federal justice is selective and favors political power. It’s one page more in the history of political corruption that has the country mired in violence and inequality,” he said.
Gutiérrez still faces embezzlement charges in Chihuahua for 1.7 million pesos (US $90,900). He must wear an ankle monitor and is prohibited from leaving the state, Peniche said.
The Chihuahua government has repeatedly clashed with federal authorities over its investigation into corruption during César Duarte’s governorship.
In January, Corral accused the federal government of withholding funds promised to the state in retaliation for its investigation and he had also warned that it would seek to protect Gutiérrez and other former PRI officials from prosecution.
The failure of federal authorities to extradite César Duarte from the United States to face corruption charges has also been a source of tension between the Chihuahua and Mexican governments.