Tuesday, April 23, 2024

State is protecting ex-Pemex boss as he begins naming names: AMLO

Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya, extradited to Mexico by Spain last week to face corruption charges, must be protected because he is cooperating with authorities and his life could be in danger, President López Obrador said Monday.

Speaking at his morning news conference, López Obrador said that Lozoya, head of the state oil company for four years during the 2012-18 government of former president Enrique Peña Nieto, should be afforded “protected witness” status.

“This is practiced in the United States and other countries and I believe that if the legal framework exists … to do something similar [in Mexico], this procedure must be applied. In this way, information is obtained. … The man has to be looked after,” he said.

The president said that Lozoya, who arrived in Mexico aboard a government plane last Thursday and was subsequently taken to a Mexico City hospital for treatment for anemia, an esophagus problem and general weakness, could provide valuable information to the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) about white-collar crime committed by officials who worked with the previous government.

The former CEO is accused of receiving multi-million-dollar bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for awarding it a lucrative refinery contract as well as benefiting from the 2015 purchase by Pemex of a rundown fertilizer plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, at an allegedly vastly inflated price.

Lozoya and former president Peña Nieto.
Lozoya and former president Peña Nieto.

López Obrador asserted that white-collar criminals, like other criminals, work in groups or networks and that Lozoya could help authorities to understand more about their “shady deals”and complicity during the “neoliberal” period.

“Everything he’s going to say will be of great public utility because it will help to banish corruption, … which is the main problem in the country. It will help a lot,”  he said.

López Obrador acknowledged that the former Pemex CEO could receive a reduced prison in sentence in exchange for cooperating with authorities but stressed that “it’s not just about putting one, two, three, five, 10, 20 or a thousand people in jail – it’s about these disgraceful acts not being repeated.”

Despite being in hospital, Lozoya has already submitted a first statement to the FGR, the president said, adding that he had mentioned the names of “personalities [and] politicians” and spoken of “the mismanagement of money.”

López Obrador said that he had no direct knowledge of the declaration – in theory, the FGR is completely independent from the government – but read about it in media reports.

“It’s almost in the public domain, they’re almost publishing it and it appears that it’s real, it’s true,” he said.

As a result of making a first statement to the FGR, which could implicate former government officials as well as opposition party lawmakers, Lozoya’s life could be in danger, López Obrador said.

In other words, people fearful of being implicated in the corruption of which the former state oil company chief is accused could take out a contract on his life.

Therefore, both the ex-official’s health and his physical security must be taken care of, López Obrador said, adding that the latter shouldn’t be neglected while he is in hospital.

Indeed, two National Guard vehicles are stationed outside the private hospital in southern Mexico City where Lozoya is receiving care, the newspaper Reforma reported.

Pedestrian and vehicle access is controlled by private security guards, the newspaper said, adding that federal agents are discretely patrolling the interior of the facility. Lozoya’s hospital stay is expected to last about a week.

The former Pemex CEO is 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.”

The Peña Nieto administration was plagued by corruption scandals but López Obrador said Monday that he wasn’t planning to pursue the ex-president or any of his predecessors.

Source: La Jornada (sp), Milenio (sp), Reforma (sp) 

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