Thursday, June 20, 2024

US drug agency investigates ex-Pemex chief for money laundering

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is investigating former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya for money laundering, a federal court revealed yesterday.

An administrative court in Mexico City said the DEA sent an official letter to the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of the Secretariat of Finance on April 30 to advise that it had initiated a probe into the onetime head of the state oil company, who is currently a fugitive from justice.

Based on the United States’ investigation, the court revoked a provisional suspension order issued on June 20 that allowed Lozoya to access his bank accounts. They had been frozen in late May shortly after a warrant for his arrest was issued in connection with the 2014 sale of a fertilizer plant to Pemex at a highly-inflated price by steelmaker Altos Hornos de México.

The court said the decision to refreeze Lozoya’s accounts was intended to “prevent the commission and/or continuation of the crime of operations with resources of illicit origin.”

The June 20 decision to temporarily unfreeze the accounts was justified on the basis that the UIF had violated the law by blocking access to the accounts because it didn’t have an order from a foreign government or international organization to do so.

Judge Gabriel Regis will decide tomorrow whether a definitive suspension order is granted to allow Lozoya to access his accounts. However, the possibility of that occurring now appears unlikely given the existence of the DEA investigation.

Lozoya managed the state oil company during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, with whom he reportedly maintained a close relationship.

Today, his lawyer said he has filed for a judicial order requiring that Peña Nieto and former finance secretary Luis Videgaray be required to give evidence in the case of the fertilizer plant. Also named in the request are former energy secretary Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, former electricity commission chief Enrique Ochoa Reza and two other officials, Javier Coello Trejo said.

Lozoya has also been accused of receiving US $10 million in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for the awarding of Pemex contracts.

Some of the money was allegedly paid before Lozoya became Pemex CEO and was funneled into Peña Nieto’s 2012 election campaign.

The former official has consistently denied any wrongdoing and his lawyer insisted on June 17 that his client is innocent of all charges against him.

His lawyer said that Lozoya was in Mexico City but claimed that he wouldn’t be arrested because authorities won’t be able to find him.

President López Obrador last week urged the federal Attorney General’s Office to apply itself to the task of arresting the former Pemex boss, declaring “there mustn’t be impunity for anyone.”

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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