A video of two former Senate officials receiving wads of cash believed to be bribes for lawmakers to ensure approval of the 2013-2014 structural reforms went viral on Monday just hours after President López Obrador called for evidence related to the corruption case against former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya to be made public.
Posted to YouTube on Sunday by an account recently opened under the name of Juan Jesús Lozoya Austin – the former state oil company chief’s brother – the video shows Guillermo Gutiérrez Badillo and Rafael Caraveo, both of whom worked for National Action Party (PAN) senators, receiving 2.4 million pesos (US $108,000 at today’s exchange rate) in 12 transparent plastic bags that contained 200,000 pesos each.
A third man gives the cash to the two Senate staffers but he is not seen on camera and his voice has been intentionally distorted. After counting the money, Gutiérrez and Caraveo place the money in a black bag.
At the end of the transaction, the latter asks when the next payment will be made but the third man tells him that he doesn’t know. It is unclear where and when the footage was recorded but the newspaper Milenio said it is presumed that the apparently illicit transaction took place in Lozoya’s “alternate offices” while he was Pemex chief.
Gutiérrez was the personal secretary of Querétaro Governor Francisco Domínguez but was dismissed on Monday after the incriminating video came to light. He also worked for Domínguez when he was a senator during the first half of the previous government’s six-year term.
Caraveo was a secretary for the Senate’s administration committee during the previous government and a close collaborator and confidante of former senator Jorge Luis Lavalle Maury, who headed up the committee.
Both Domínguez, a senator between 2012 and 2015 before becoming governor of Querétaro, and Lavalle, a senator from 2012 to 2018, were key players in the process to approve the previous government’s energy reform which opened up the sector to private and foreign companies.
In a document submitted to the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR), Lozoya – currently awaiting trial on corruption charges – said that part of US $10 million in bribes paid to the campaign of former president Enrique Peña Nieto and his government by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht was used to pay bribes to opposition party lawmakers to ensure that the energy reform was passed by Congress.
Peña Nieto and former cabinet minister Luis Videgaray led the bribery scheme, according to Lozoya, and Domínguez and Lavalle were among the lawmakers who received kickbacks in exchange for their support for the government’s legislative agenda.
Governor Domínguez said on Twitter that he had no knowledge of the allegedly illicit conduct of his personal secretary and asserted that he has never committed any improper act. He also said that he was willing to cooperate with authorities in any probe into the cash transaction.
Caraveo denied on Twitter that the money he and Gutiérrez received was a bribe but didn’t offer any further details.
The damning video began circulating widely online just three hours after López Obrador said at his regular news conference on Monday morning that all the evidence Lozoya says he has against former government officials – including Peña Nieto and Videgaray – and former lawmakers should be revealed to the public.
Doing so would “help to purify public life,” he said. “None of this hiding the truth, [we need] complete transparency, which is a golden rule of democracy.”
FGR officials said later on Monday that the video circulating online had not been provided to it as part of evidence submitted by Lozoya. Officials told Milenio that they didn’t know where it came from or who published it online.
A lawyer for Lozoya said his brother would file a criminal complaint with the FGR because someone had illegally used his identity to disseminate the video. Miguel Ontiveros Alonso also said that Juan Jesús Lozoya doesn’t have an account on YouTube.
“The broadcasting of the video was executed through the commission of a crime by creating a fake account and stealing the identity of Mr. Juan Jesús Lozoya,” he said.