UPDATE 1-Spain Oks extradition of Mexican steel magnate accused of graft

(Adds comment from AHMSA, background)

MADRID/MEXICO CITY, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Spain’s high court said on Friday it had rejected an appeal lodged by the chairman of a leading Mexican steelmaker and ordered his extradition to his home country where he faces corruption charges.

The Spanish court ruled that the charges filed in Mexico against Alonso Ancira, chairman of the board of Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA), are also punished in Spain and rejected his claim that he was the victim of political persecution.

In a statement later on Friday, AHMSA said it supported Ancira with “the absolute certainty” that he is innocent of the charge of carrying out business with funds of illicit origin.

Ancira was detained in Spain by Interpol in 2019 during a push by the Mexican government to investigate alleged acts of corruption linked to Mexican state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos and its former boss.

The steel magnate had been accused of involvement in “a series of crimes that gravely hurt” the Mexican oil giant, popularly known as Pemex, according to a statement from the country’s attorney general at the time.

Ancira was later released on bail.

In 2014, AHMSA sold an out-of-service fertilizer plant to Pemex for about $475 million while Emilio Lozoya was the government-run firm’s chief executive.

The investigation into Lozoya centers on money transfers that AHMSA made to a shell company allegedly set up by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht to pay bribes.

That shell firm in turn allegedly sent the funds to Lozoya and some of his relatives.

The bribery is at the heart of an unfolding corruption investigation in Mexico that earlier this week implicated former President Enrique Pena Nieto. (Reporting by Inti Landauro in Madrid and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Editing by Nathan Allen and Richard Chang)