Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Emilio Lozoya corruption trial postponed for third time

The trial of former Pemex director Emilio Lozoya Austin in the Agronitrogenados corruption case has been postponed for a third time, as the former oil executive attempts to negotiate a compensation settlement with Mexican authorities.

A hearing scheduled to take place Tuesday to determine whether Lozoya should face trial for defrauding the state oil company was delayed until Feb. 16, after Lozoya’s legal team argued that their client was in negotiations with Mexican authorities to reach an agreed-upon amount in a compensation settlement. 

In granting the postponement, Judge Gerardo Alarcón López warned Lozoya’s legal team that they would not be granted another delay.

“I want you to be aware because there is not going to be another postponement of this hearing,” Alarcón said.

Miguel Ontiveros lawyer for ex-Pemex director Emilio Lozoya
Miguel Ontiveros, the head of Lozoya’s legal team, is a human rights and prisoners’ rights attorney who headed the Attorney General’s Office’s defense of human rights office before and during Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency. (File photo: Government of Michoacán)

Lozoya is accused of organizing Pemex’s 2014 purchase of the dilapidated Agronitrogenados fertilizer plant at an inflated price. The deal allegedly earned Lozoya more than $3 million in kickbacks from Agronitrogenados’ former owner, steelmaker Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA).

Later investigations revealed that the purchase was part of a plot to transfer resources to offshore companies used in bribery schemes by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to win contracts in Mexico and several other Latin American countries. 

Lozoya is also accused of accepting multimillion-dollar kickbacks from Odebrecht in exchange for a lucrative refinery contract.

Lozoya’s lead attorney Miguel Ontiveros insists that he believes authorities will accept the deal proposed by the former oil executive before Feb. 16. 

Ontiveros said that Lozoya is willing to pay the full reparations set by the Pemex Board of Directors for the damages in the Agronitrogenados case.

“I take advantage of this moment to respectfully send a message to the President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador — first to confirm that we absolutely agree with the anti-corruption policy implemented by his government; second, to say that we agree that Mr. Lozoya Austin must make full reparation, as [he] has stated before the judge and before the Prosecutor’s Office and before Pemex,” Ontiveros said.

Former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto
Former president Enrique Peña Nieto has not been charged with a crime, but the federal Attorney General’s Office let it be known in August that they are investigating him, and since Lozoya’s arrest in 2020, two other officials have faced corruption charges in a scheme prosecutors say was to benefit Peña Nieto’s legislative goals. (File photo: Cuartoscuro)

At a previous hearing in April 2022, Pemex rejected Lozoya’s offer of over US $3 million, declaring it inadequate to cover the damages caused. 

A second hearing — to consider Lozoya’s offer to pay over $7 million in compensation for his involvement in the Odebrecht case — was postponed on Pemex’s request. 

Lozoya was arrested in Spain in February 2020 and deported to Mexico in July of that year. He initially avoided jail due to cooperation agreements with the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR), which saw him implicate numerous members of Mexico’s political elite in related corruption cases, most notably including Mexico’s former president Enrique Peña Nieto. 

Lozoya has accused Pena Nieto of orchestrating a scheme to use Odebrecht money to buy legislators’ support for the liberalization of Mexico’s energy sector and other structural reforms.

Since Lozoya’s accusations, the FGR has been engaging in a widespread corruption investigation, in which it says that Peña Nieto benefited, although the former president has yet to be charged with any crime.

However, the FGR has jailed Lozoya and former National Action Party Senator Jorge Luis Lavalle Maury in pre-trial detention on charges of participating in the alleged money laundering and bribery schemes involving Odebrecht. Lavalle is accused of accepting bribes to vote for the electricity reform. 

L to R: Director of Pemex Octavio Romero Oropeza with former director of Pemex Carlos Trevino Medina in 2018
Treviño, right, in 2018 when he was handing over the reins of Pemex to his successor, Octavio Romero Oropeza, left, who is the current director of the state-owned oil company. (Pemex/Twitter)

Also ensnared in the FGR’s net is another former Pemex director, Carlos Treviño Medina, who is accused of receiving 4 million pesos in illicit enrichment in the Odebrecht case.

A warrant for his arrest was issued in September 2021, but Treviño has thus far avoided imprisonment by filing two requests for injunctions against the warrant, saying that the FGR’s case against him is without substance. His injunction hearing is scheduled for January 27.

Treviño was Pemex’s head from 2017 to 2018, during the last year of Peña Nieto’s administration. 

Lozoya has been imprisoned in Mexico City’s Reclusorio Norte jail since November 2021, after photos of him dining in a luxury restaurant sparked criticism of his alleged preferential treatment. If he fails to reach a compensation agreement with Pemex, he will face trial on charges of bribery, money laundering and criminal association that could see him sentenced to almost four decades behind bars.

With reports from El Financiero and Excelsior

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