News 4 days ago

Mexico's ex-chief of Pemex drops extradition fight

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The former head of Mexico’s state oil company has dropped his extradition fight and agreed to return to Mexico to cooperate in corruption investigations, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said Tuesday.

Spanish police arrested Emilio Lozoya in the southern city of Malaga in February on an international warrant issued by Mexico.

Gertz Manero said Mexican prosecutors had obtained arrest orders for Lozoya based on parallel investigations into bribes paid by the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and the 2015 purchase of a fertilizer plant by Petroleos Mexicanos, better known as Pemex, at an inflated price. But word of warrants leaked and Lozoya fled Mexico.

He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Authorities spent eight months searching for him around the world, Gertz Manero said.

Lozoya will be returned to Mexico as soon as the details of his travel can be finalized, he said.

Lozoya was director of Pemex between 2012 and 2016, during the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In late 2016, Odebrecht, reached an agreement with American, Brazilian and Swiss justice officials to pay millions of dollars in penalties. As part of that accord, Odebrecht divulged details of bribes across several countries. It said it paid $10.5 million to officials at Pemex between 2010 and 2014. Lozoya has denied taking bribes.

The scandal grew in late 2017 when a series of videos of statements of former Odebrecht executives were released, including its former Mexico director, Luis de Meneses. They directly implicated Lozoya, who in 2012 had been a key member of Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign.

While the Odebrecht revelations led to a wave of corruption investigations and arrests across Latin America. Lozoya is the first Mexican arrested in relation to the Odebrecht scandal.

The head of Mexico's anti-money laundering agency, Santiago Nieto, had earlier said Lozoya's lawyers had discussed the possibility that the former oil-company boss could provide information on other possible cases, in return for a suspeded sentence.

“What he has talked about with his lawyers is that the national penal code allows for the possibility of cancelling a criminal case if (the suspect) gives true and credible information on superiors involved,” Nieto said.

Nieto said in an interview in May that his office did not yet have any evidence tying Lozoya's alleged misdeeds to other people higher up in the administration of former president Enrique Peña Nieto.