Wednesday, May 29, 2024

In second court appearance, Lozoya pleads innocent to Odebrecht bribery charge

Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya pleaded innocent on Wednesday to a charge that he received multi-million-dollar bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

Appearing before the court for a second consecutive day via video link from a Mexico City hospital where he is receiving treatment for several health problems, Lozoya also reiterated that he is willing to cooperate with authorities in their investigation into corruption during the 2012-18 government led by former president Enrique Peña Nieto.

A federal prosecutor alleged that Lozoya, who headed up the state oil company between 2012 and 2016, received a total of US $10.5 million in bribes from Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying kickbacks in Mexico.

The prosecutor alleged that the former Pemex CEO received a $4-million payment from Odebrecht’s former Mexico director, Luis Alberto de Meneses Weyll, when he was part of Peña Nieto’s 2012 campaign team.

The prosecutor charged that Lozoya met “constantly” with de Meneses and told him that if Peña Nieto won the election, he would be in a position to award infrastructure contracts to Odebrecht.

Odebrecht was subsequently awarded a lucrative contract to complete work on a Pemex refinery in Hidalgo as well as contracts for other infrastructure projects in Veracruz and Tamaulipas.

While Lozoya was Pemex CEO, he received an additional $6.5 million in bribe payments, the prosecutor alleged.

Almost $1.4 million was allegedly transferred to a bank account held by Lozoya’s mother, Gilda Austin de Lozoya, and used to purchase a home in the resort city of Ixtapa, Guerrero. Other funds were allegedly held in secret bank accounts including one in Germany.

The prosecutor also alleged that Lozoya introduced Odebrecht executives to Mexican business owners with a view to them forming partnerships to complete work on government projects.

At today’s hearing, the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) formally accused the former Pemex official of involvement in bribery, conducting operations with resources of illicit origin and criminal association.

Lozoya rejected the allegations and said he would denounce those responsible for the crimes.

The Ixtapa home allegedly purchased with bribe money deposited to an account held by Lozoya's mother, Gilda Austin.
The Ixtapa home allegedly purchased with bribe money deposited to an account held by Lozoya’s mother, Gilda Austin.

He reportedly told the FGR before his extradition to Mexico from Spain two weeks ago that the $4-million payment was used to pay foreign consultants that advised Peña Nieto’s campaign and that part of the $6-million payment was used to bribe lawmakers to ensure support for the former government’s energy reform.

Lozoya told the court today that his intention is to collaborate with federal authorities in exchange for a possible reduction in any prison sentence he receives.

His declaration of innocence on Wednesday comes a day after he denied receiving a bribe in excess of $3 million from the president of Altos Hornos de México, a company from which Pemex purchased a rundown fertilizer plant in 2015 at an allegedly vastly inflated price.

“I will prove that I am not responsible for nor guilty of the crimes of which I am accused,” Lozoya said.

The presiding judge ordered him to stand trial on the charge. The FGR has also submitted an application to the court for Lozoya to stand trial on the Odebrecht bribery charges.

President López Obrador said Monday that Lozoya’s appearance in court was a “watershed” moment in his government’s crusade against corruption.

Lozoya 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 the embezzlement scheme known as the “Master Fraud.”

Robles remains in preventative custody awaiting trial. Peña Nieto, who has vanished from public life since the end of his presidency in December 2018, does not currently face any charges.

Source: El Economista (sp) 

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