August 8, 2018 / 1:42 PM / 4 months ago

Graft charges dismissed against former union leader in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Wide-ranging corruption charges pursued by Mexico’s outgoing government against Elba Esther Gordillo, the politically connected ex-leader of the country’s most powerful teachers union, have been dismissed, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

For decades, Gordillo led one of Latin America’s largest unions and was known for her close ties to the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. She gained notoriety, however, for living a lavish lifestyle that critics saw as a symbol of impunity and graft.

“I received ... notification of the decree of my absolute and immediate freedom due to the dismissal of charges in the criminal case under which I was a subject,” according to a letter written by Gordillo but read by her lawyer, Marco Antonio del Toro.

Del Toro said the notification was issued late Tuesday night and that Gordillo will speak publicly about the dismissal on Aug. 20.

“I need time to privately assimilate the emotions that stem from such an important personal issue,” she added in the letter.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gordillo, 72, was arrested in early 2013, accused of embezzling $200 million in union funds, just a day after President Enrique Pena Nieto signed into law a major education reform that Gordillo opposed.

She faced charges of using intermediaries to move money to bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, then back to the United States, in order to buy property in the United States and pay for works of art and plastic surgery.

At the time of her arrest, the government said Gordillo had declared income of just 1.1 million pesos ($59,500) between 2009 and 2012.

Late last year, Gordillo was transferred from prison and placed under house arrest after the New Alliance political party she founded announced it would support Pena Nieto’s PRI in last July’s presidential election.

Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won the vote in a landslide while the PRI’s standard-bearer came in a distant third. Lopez Obrador will take office in December. ($1 = 18.5020 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Diego Ore and Lizbeth Diaz Writing by David Alire Garcia Editing by Paul Simao)

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