A wide-reaching corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht has claimed its first casualty from within the state oil company Pemex.
The Secretariat of Public Administration (SFP) dismissed company executive Marco Antonio Sierra Martínez from his position, disqualified him from holding any public position for 10 years and imposed a fine of 119 million pesos (US $6.2 million) for his role in alleged corruption relating to a construction contract at the Pemex refinery in Tula, Hidalgo.
The second-tier executive is accused of overpaying Mexican affiliate Constructora Norberto Odebrecht by the same amount he was fined.
A deputy director’s position such as that held by Sierra comes with a monthly salary of around 112,000 pesos (US $5,850), according to the National Transparency Platform, meaning that the fine is equivalent to total earnings over a period of almost 89 years.
However, whether the sanctions are ever enforced remains to be seen as several avenues of appeal are open to the former executive.
Norberto Odebrecht is one of 21 subsidiaries of the Brazilian firm in Mexico and the federal government announced Monday that it had been banned from bidding for public contracts for the next four years.
The Secretary of Public Administration stressed yesterday that Mexico is the only country in the region to impose such a sanction on Odebrecht and its affiliates.
“Mexico, through the Secretariat of Public Administration, is the only country in Latin America that has so far disqualified the Brazilian company from competing for future public contracts,” Arely Gómez said.
Gómez added that a four-year ban would have “a significant impact on the finances of any company” and hinted that more action may follow against other affiliates found to have engaged in improper conduct.
“. . . This is just the first ruling,” she said.
In total, the SFP has opened eight administrative investigations in relation to the Odebrecht case, including four against the company and its subsidiaries, two against its legal representatives and two against Pemex officials.
Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya has also been accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht during his tenure at the head of the company as well as funneling funds to the 2012 campaign of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing but the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) continues to investigate claims that he received bribes of US $10 million in exchange for the awarding of a contract for work at the Tula refinery.
The Brazilian firm’s involvement in corruption extends well beyond Mexico.
Odebrecht is at the center of scandals in several other Latin American countries that have already cost one high-level politician his job and could even bring down a president.
A court in Ecuador sentenced Vice President Jorge Glas to six years in jail earlier this week for receiving bribes from Odebrecht while the president of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, is facing impeachment proceedings for failing to disclose decade-old payments he received from the company.