The former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos has denied receiving a US $5-million bribe from the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.
Emilio Lozoya Austin, who ran Pemex until February last year, was named in a Brazilian magazine in connection with an ongoing investigation into corruption at the Brazilian construction firm.
The weekly news magazine Veja cited court documents that said Lozoya had requested the $5-million payment in exchange for construction contracts.
Both firms said they are collaborating with the federal Attorney General’s office in its investigation of the case, but declined to make any comment.
The anti-corruption director of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Imco) told the newspaper Reforma that the corruption scandal surrounding Lozoya “was to be expected.”
“This could become the biggest corruption scandal in Mexico. It is known that Odebrecht had dealings with several local media firms, and I understand it signed several contracts” he said.
Káiser lamented that once again other countries are carrying out investigations into accusations of corruption in Mexico.
“In the last 10 years, investigations into prominent corruption cases in Mexico have been made by foreign authorities. [Lozoya’s] case will proceed in Mexico based on investigations that were not made here.”
Lozoya, a member of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), held a position with the Mexico branch of OHL, a Spanish construction firm involved in a corruption scandal with authorities in the State of México, before joining Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential election campaign.
Once in office, Peña named him CEO of Pemex, a position he held until last February when he was abruptly removed, a move that has remained unexplained.
An investigation by Brazilian authorities into corruption at Brazil’s national oil company Petrobras resulted in the arrest in 2015 of Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht. He was sentenced last year to 19 years in jail for paying over $300 million in bribes to Petrobras executives in exchange for contracts.
In Mexico, Pemex said earlier this month that current and former employees will be called to testify with regard to four contracts awarded to Odebrecht and its affiliate, the petrochemical firm Braskem SA, between 2010 and 2015.
U.S. authorities said in December they had evidence given by Oldebrecht executives that the company had paid bribes of $10.5 million to Mexican government officials, of which $6 million went to a senior official at Pemex.
The news website Animal Político reported this week that Odebrecht received Pemex contracts worth about 20 billion pesos while Lozoya was CEO, between 2012 and 2016.