Monday, June 17, 2024

Ex-Odebrecht director challenges Lozoya’s claims over use of bribes

The former Mexico director of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht has rejected ex-Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya’s version of events about bribes he paid on behalf of his employer.

Lozoya, arrested on corruption charges in Spain in February and extradited to Mexico in July, told the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) that after he met with Odebrecht director Luis Alberto de Meneses Weyll in Mexico City in 2012, the firm gave US $4 million to the campaign of former president Enrique Peña Nieto and another $6 million to his government after he took office.

He said he met with the company director on the orders of Luis Videgaray, a Peña Nieto-era cabinet minister, who instructed him to negotiate resources to cover campaign costs.

The former state oil company chief, who worked on Peña Nieto’s 2012 campaign, alleged that Odebrecht paid the bribes in exchange for preferential treatment from the former federal government. He said that the $6 million was paid in exchange for a 3-billion-peso ($141.5 million at today’s exchange rate) contract for work on the Pemex refinery in Tula, Hidalgo.

Part of that money was used to bribe lawmakers to ensure support for the former government’s 2014 energy reform, he told the FGR.

Lozoya, who is cooperating with authorities in the hope that he will be acquitted or given a lighter sentence, also accused officials in the government of Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón, of taking bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for approving an ethane plant deal in Veracruz.

But through his lawyer, de Meneses Weyll (commonly known as Luis Weyll) rejected Lozoya’s claims.

Carlos Kauffmann told the investigative news website Quinto Elemento Lab that his client – who has admitted to paying bribes to Lozoya on Odebrecht’s behalf – didn’t specifically provide money for Peña Nieto’s campaign or to pay off lawmakers in exchange for approving the energy reform.

The lawyer also told the website that Weyll didn’t make payments to the Calderón government in exchange for ethane plant contracts and would have said so if he had.

Kauffmann asserted that his client had no knowledge of how the money he transferred to Lozoya would be used.

“What Emilio Lozoya did with the payments – that wasn’t up to Luis Weyll to decide or question. … The only person who knows what was done with the money is Lozoya himself,” he said.

“Luis Weyll assumed complete responsibility for all the payments he made and proved all the payments with documents but he won’t take responsibility for what he didn’t do.”

Weyll told Brazilian prosecutors in 2016 that the money he transferred to Lozoya was exclusively for his use. He said that he gave the money to the former Pemex CEO in exchange for helping Odebrecht win Pemex contracts at the Tula refinery and in the state of Veracruz.

In his submission to the FGR, Lozoya claimed that Peña Nieto and Videgaray had a close relationship with former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht and Weyll and led the Odebrecht bribery scheme, depicting himself as a victim of their corruption.

Two meetings serve as evidence of the close relationship between the Odebrecht officials and the former government, Lozoya told the FGR.

He said that Peña Nieto met with Odebrecht and Weyll in Brazil in 2010 when he was governor of the state of México. After a meal together, the Odebrecht officials offered to support Peña Nieto financially in the event that he ran for president at the 2012 election, Lozoya said.

After winning the 2012 election but before taking office, Peña Nieto met with Odebrecht again, he said. At a meeting at Odebrecht’s Sao Paulo home, a “more direct relationship” between the Brazilian firm and the former Mexican government began to be forged, Lozoya said.

Kauffmann refuted Lozoya’s claim that his client met with Peña Nieto, asserting that Weyll never had contact with any Mexican government official apart from Lozoya.

“Luis Weyll only had direct contact with Emilio Lozoya. He never had contact with the president nor any other lawmakers,” he said before reiterating the his client did not know how the Odebrecht bribes would be used.

The lawyer rejected Lozoya’s claim that Odebrecht congratulated the government after Congress passed the energy reform that opened up the sector to foreign and private companies for the first time in more than 70 years.

“They were happy because with the reform they could obtain a greater volume of work,” the former Pemex boss told the FGR.

However, Kauffmann said that Odebrecht never had any interest in the energy reform and didn’t benefit from it in any way.

“If there was no interest … [the company] wouldn’t pay legislators” to approve the reform, he said.

Authorities in Mexico haven’t called on Weyll to provide a statement in relation to the Lozoya case but his lawyer said that his client is willing to cooperate.

However, the lawyer stressed that his client would only talk after Mexican authorities made a commitment not to pursue the former Odebrecht director.

“Luis Weyll is in Brazil. He can speak to Mexican authorities as long as they respect the commitment they entered into with Brazilian authorities,” Kauffman said.

Weyll previously struck a deal with those authorities to cooperate in exchange for a reduced sentence.

In light of the article published by Quinto Elemento Lab, President López Obrador said Tuesday morning that the FGR should investigate the veracity of Lozoya’s claims.

Lozoya is one of three high profile Peña Nieto-era officials who have been arrested since the new government took office.

The others are cabinet minister Rosario Robles, who is awaiting trial on charges related to the so-called Master Fraud embezzlement scheme and ex-army chief Salvador Cienfuegos, who was taken into custody in the United States last month on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Today it was revealed that the attorney general has sought an arrest warrant for Videgaray.

Source: Quinto Elemento Lab (sp) 

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