MEXICO CITY &

A former Mexican governor was released from prison and immediately re-arrested today for possible extradition to the United States, where he faces drug trafficking charges.




Federal police arrested Mario Villanueva as he was leaving a maximum-security prison west of Mexico City before dawn and took him to a prison in the capital, the federal Attorney General's Office said in a news release.




In 2002, a federal court in New York asked Mexico to extradite Villanueva on charges he helped smuggle 200 tons of cocaine into the United States while serving as governor of Quintana Roo state, where Cancun is located. Prosecutors said Villanueva received $500,000 for each of several shipments he aided.




Villanueva disappeared two weeks before his term ended in 1999, and spent two years in hiding before he was caught in Cancun in 2001, and was charged with drug trafficking and organized crime.




On Tuesday, courts announced he had been acquitted on the most serious charges but convicted of laundering money through Swiss banks while serving as governor.




The six-year sentence for that crime had already been covered by his time in prison and so a judge ordered him freed.




Prosecutors originally accused Villanueva of allowing a branch of the Juarez drug cartel to operate in his state and of assigning police officers to protect traffickers. Villanueva denied those accusations, saying they were motivated by political rivalries.




In 2005, a former investment manager at Lehman Brothers Inc. pleaded guilty to helping Villanueva launder $11 million in drug money.