The scandal of the day in Mexico stems from an article published Sunday by Brazil’s main daily newspaper O’Globo in which former Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) (2013-2016) CEO Emilio Lozoya Austin is said to have taken anywhere between $10 and 15 million in “tips” (a new name for bribes) from construction company Odebrecht.
This hearsay has been making noise in Mexico for several months now, and even last February Attorney General Raúl Cervantes travelled to Brazil to document himself on the case. Up until now the Attorney General has not filed even to investigate Lozoya Austin’s alleged corruption.
Lozoya’s problems began as early as 2015 when Mexico Federal Auditor detected inconsistencies and missing funds as well as unjustified expenditures in Pemex, specifically in the contracts with Odelbrecht. By 2016, he was removed for no apparent reasons from the post to be replaced by current director José Antonio González Anaya.
In case you’re not familiar with Odebrecht, the company belonged to Marcelo Odebrecht, a Brazilian tycoon who since April 2016 was condemned to 19 years in the slammer for paying bribes in exchanged for contracts to executives of Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras.
But Marcelo Odebrecht extended his bribe paying habit to as many as 12 other Latin American nations in which he handed out some $788 million between 2001 and 2016 in exchange for construction contracts.
Newspaper O’Globo Sunday published the testimony of the man who was in charge of the Odebrecht office in Mexico City, Luis Alberto de Meneses, who along two other witnesses and bribing participants Luiz Mameri and Hilberto da Silva stated without the shadow of a doubt that they had deposited at least $10 million in an offshore investment company in the Virgin Islands to a company named Latin American Asia Capital Holding. They claim Lozoya Austin provided them the name of the offshore investment company and later personally confirmed each of the many deposits made in it.
Just to give you a hint of the corruption network Odebrecht had established in Latin America, currently former Brazil President Lula de Melo is under indictment for having received kickbacks but in Peru there are arrest warrants to former presidents Alejandro Toledo and Ollanta Humala for participating in the Odebrecht corruption network.
Incidentally, Pemex announced Monday the cancellation of a contract with Odebrecht to prepare the ground for residuals control in a refinery in Tula, just north of Mexico City, a project that has long been on hold and this new scandal will presumably kill it.
Also on Monday, Lozoya Austin’s defense lawyer Javier Coello Trejo went on radio programs as well as in the print press to demand the Attorney General’s Office to summon the accused former Pemex CEO to hear his side of the story. Of course, Coello Trejo assures the public that his client is being slandered and falsely incriminated.
There’s been no immediate reaction from Attorney General Raúl Cervantes and this is bringing about a lot of gossip and really warranted suspicion that yet another of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s men is going to receive official protection.
Lozoya Austion — who studied economics at the Autonomous Mexican Technology Institute (ITAM) with former Treasury Secretary Pedro Aspe Armella and had as his classmate his buddy and protector Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray — served as international affairs official for the Peña Nieto presidential candidacy and then became an integral part of the president’s team until he was laid off from the Pemex directorate.
Another question at hand is where Lozoya Austin is nowadays. Nobody knows, and his lawyer isn’t saying his whereabouts, but there is no need to worry as he has not been summoned by the Attorney General, and even if indicted in Brazil, his term managing the nation’s oil company — which he left near bankruptcy — may never be investigated and much the less, critics claim, as long as Peña Nieto is president.
Another question Mexicans are asking is, did Lozoya Austin trickled upstairs some of the alleged “tips”?