OTTAWA - A Liberal MP says a Canadian woman jailed in Mexico could be transferred into Canadian custody as early as Friday.

But Dan McTeague says the federal government is dragging its feet, preventing Brenda Martin's quick handover to Canadian authorities. McTeague says Martin, 51, spoke with Mexican authorities Thursday, who told her she could be transferred immediately, but that Canadian officials had not paid a fine equivalent to $3,500 Cdn.

Martin is quoted by McTeague, the Liberal consular affairs critic, as saying that Mexican officials told her they have waived a mandatory five-business-day period in which she was to be held in custody following her conviction this week on a fraud charge.

"Mexican authorities have told her that all the paperwork has been completed, that they are prepared to release her to Canadian officials, but there are no Canadian officials there," McTeague said.

"They were prepared to release her today, according to Brenda."

However, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's office says Martin won't be transferred into Canadian custody on Friday.

"No, not tomorrow," said Melisa Leclerc during a brief telephone call.

Leclerc says Martin has officially requested a prisoner transfer, and Day has asked officials to expedite the process.

"I cannot speculate on how long it will take, however, I can assure you that Minister Day has asked that the transfer process moves forward as quickly as possible," she wrote in an e-mail.

Neil Hrab, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, added in a e-mail that all fines must be settled before countries will agree to proceed with a transfer.

"While the Canadian Government does not pay fines from public funds, we are prepared to advance Ms. Martin the money necessary from (the department's) "Distressed Canadian Fund" to ensure her transfer to Canada on the condition that she repay this amount on her return to Canada," wrote Hrab.

Tory MP Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism, is to visit Martin in Guadalajara on Friday. Leclerc says Kenney will check into her well-being and assure her Canada is working to reunite her with friends and family.

Martin, formerly of Trenton, Ont., has been held at the Puente Grande womens prison near Guadalajara since Mexican authorities arrested her more than two years ago in connection with an Internet fraud scheme run by her ex-boss.

Former Edmontonian Alyn Waage masterminded a fraud scheme from 1999 to 2001 called the Tri-West Investment Club, which bilked 15,000 investors out of nearly US$60 million.

He's now serving out a 10-year sentence at a low-security federal prison in Butner, N.C.

Martin has steadfastly maintained she knew nothing of the scam. Waage has backed her claim in a sworn affidavit.

A Mexican judge found her guilty of involvement in Waage's scam and sentenced her to a minimum of five years in jail and fined her 35,800 pesos (C$3,447.30).

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