Friday, June 21, 2024

Ex-Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya released after 2 years in prison; trial still pending

Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya was released from preventive detention on Tuesday after spending more than two years in jail as he awaits trial on corruption charges.

The ex-state oil company chief left the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City Tuesday night after a court ruled that he was no longer a flight risk.

Lozoya left Mexico City’s Reclusorio Norte jail last night, and will wear an electronic ankle tag until his trial concludes. (Rogelio Morales/Cuartoscuro)

Lozoya, CEO of Pemex for just over three years between 2012 and 2016, was imprisoned in November 2021, almost two years after his arrest in Spain and 1 1/2 years after he was extradited to Mexico from the European nation. His imprisonment came less than a month after he was photographed dining at a high-end Mexico City restaurant.

Lozoya is accused of receiving multi-million-dollar bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for granting it a lucrative contract for work on the Pemex refinery in Hidalgo. He also faces charges related to a corruption case involving Pemex’s 2014 purchase of a fertilizer plant at an allegedly vastly inflated price.

As he continues to await trial, Lozoya will be required to wear an electronic ankle tag, is prohibited from leaving Mexico and will have to periodically check in with authorities.

If found guilty of receiving bribes, money laundering and criminal association in connection with the Odebrecht case, the 49-year-old could die in prison as the Federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) is seeking a prison term of over 46 years in addition to a compensation payment of some US $7.3 million. It is unclear when he will face trial.

ex Petroleos Mexicanos director Emilio Lozoya
Lozoya has admitted to complicity in a massive corruption scandal that involves former president Enrique Peña Nieto and other officials. (File photo)

Federal prosecutor Manuel Granados Quiroz said Tuesday that Lozoya has been afforded “totally unfair” privileges in being released from preventive detention. He said the FGR would appeal the decision.

Lozoya told authorities in 2020 that he received some US $10 million in bribes from Odebrecht on the orders of former president Enrique Peña Nieto. He said that the money was used to finance Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential campaign and to buy the support of National Action Party lawmakers in order to get the previous government’s energy reform through Congress.

The former Pemex CEO implicated a who’s who of Mexico’s political elite in the corruption of which he is accused, including two other former presidents, Carlos Salinas and Felipe Calderón, and 2018 presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in July 2020 that Lozoya must be protected because he was cooperating with authorities and his life could be in danger. On Wednesday he railed against his release, and asserted — not for the first time — that the judiciary is “dominated by a corrupt oligarchy” and “doesn’t represent the people of Mexico.”

Lozoya previously tried to buy his way out of jail, but was unsuccessful.

He was the second high-ranking member of the Peña Nieto government to be taken into custody on corruption charges after former cabinet minister Rosario Robles, who allegedly participated in a huge embezzlement scheme known as the “Master Fraud.

Robles spent three years in preventive detention before her release in 2022. She was absolved in late 2023.

With reports from El Universal, El Financiero and Reforma 

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