Mexico Arrests Ex-Pemex Chief After Flashy Meal Sparked Ire
(Bloomberg) -- Mexican authorities took former Pemex Chief Executive Officer Emilio Lozoya into custody in a corruption case that reaches the highest levels of power, after the nation’s president pressed prosecutors to speed up the drawn-out investigation.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the judge granted a request by federal prosecutors to have him put into pre-trial detention. Prosecutors argued that Lozoya, who is accused of corruption but became a protected witness and avoided prison, is now a flight risk.
The arrest follows Lozoya’s extradition from Spain to Mexico in 2020 on graft charges. Once granted protected witness status, Lozoya said Enrique Pena Nieto ordered him to funnel bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to the former president’s campaign, which he helped manage. Odebrecht had previously admitted to making illegal payments in countries across Latin America, but the fallout from the scandal has dragged on in Mexico.
The bribe money, according to Lozoya’s past testimony, also went to guarantee lawmakers’ votes in favor of a landmark 2013 energy reform, accusations that several former officials have denied. The case has fueled President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s anti-corruption messaging, but he has said recently that the legal process is taking too long after the investigation showed no significant advances.
Lozoya was spotted eating at a fancy restaurant in Mexico City last month, raising public ire and questions about the case. Prosecutors mentioned that meal in their argument to the judge that Lozoya wasn’t committed to repairing the damage he’d caused, news website Animal Politico reported.
Lozoya had arrived at Wednesday’s hearing to argue for more time to present his case. But then prosecutors requested his detention and he was taken to the Reclusorio Norte prison in the nation’s capital, according to the Federal Judiciary Council.
Lopez Obrador said all of those responsible for receiving bribes should be punished, during his daily morning press briefing Thursday. He added that he hadn’t instructed prosecutors to seek Lozoya’s detention.
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