Ex-Pemex CEO Told Prosecutor That Pena Nieto Ordered Bribery
(Bloomberg) -- A former head of Mexico’s state-owned oil giant, Emilio Lozoya, accused former President Enrique Pena Nieto and a former finance minister of ordering him to funnel bribes from Brazilian builder Odebrecht to the 2012 presidential campaign, Mexico’s attorney general said.
Attorney General Alejandro Gertz said Tuesday that Lozoya testified he was ordered by the two to funnel more than 100 million pesos ($4.46 million) into the campaign. Later in power, Lozoya said they ordered him to use 120 million pesos to bribe lawmakers to pass a landmark energy reform that opened the state-run sector to private investment.
“It came from Odebrecht to Emilio, and from Emilio to collaborators and the electoral campaign,” Gertz said in a video message.
Various attempts to reach Pena Nieto through former representatives were unsuccessful.
The accusations send Mexico into uncharted territory, where no former Mexican president has faced corruption charges or been sent to jail. Odebrecht pleaded guilty to splashing millions in bribes around Latin America, landing former presidents and top level officials in jail. Yet Mexico, the region’s laggard in mounting serious corruption cases, had failed to prosecute bribery allegations that surfaced out of a Brazilian probe.
Lozoya, who ran Petroleos Mexicanos from 2012 to 2016, had been the biggest target yet in Lopez Obrador’s crackdown on corruption. Yet, the populist leader had said he was not in favor of prosecuting Pena Nieto due to the political implications, and instead thought Mexico should move on, follow his example and just end crony capitalism. Still, Lopez Obrador, had said he would leave any decision on prosecutions up to the attorney general.
Gertz said prosecutors have opened an investigation and may call on Pena Nieto and the finance minister to testify. Luis Videgaray, now a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, was Pena Nieto’s first finance minister and campaign manager. Videgaray didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Another 200 million pesos in bribes were used to support an electoral reform law, Gertz said, citing Lozoya’s testimony.
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Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister and a professor at New York University, cautioned there were still no formal charges against Pena Nieto or Videgaray. He said there was little sign yet that Mexican prosecutors had a strong enough case that could lead to the extradition of either Pena Nieto or Videgaray.
“I am sure they have a case in the court of Mexican public opinion, but I’m not sure they have a case in an American court,” Castaneda said in a telephone interview.
The latest allegations come as the country gears up for mid-term elections next year, where Lopez Obrador will be defending his party’s majority in the lower house of congress. The focus on corruption scandals could give his party a boost
Lopez Obador has seen his popularity slump as Mexico sinks into what analysts project will be its deepest recession since the Great Depression due to the coronavirus shutdowns while the outbreak shows little sign of slowing as the country struggles to reopen.
However, Castaneda said it was still far from clear how the case would develop and if it would really end up helping Lopez Obrador at the polls. “They need blood. They have to throw Pena in jail if they want to have electoral awards. If they just go after them, but no one is in jail, I’m not sure how much this benefits anyone electorally,” he said.
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