Ex-official says former Mexico president directed corruption

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Photo credit FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2017 file photo, Emilio Lozoya, former head of Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex, gives a press conference in Mexico City. Lozoya, who was arrested in February 2020 by Spanish police on an international warrant issued by Mexico, has dropped his extradition fight and agreed to return to Mexico to cooperate in corruption investigations, according to Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Gustavo Martinez Contreras, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — In some of the most explosive accusations in recent Mexican political history, the former head of the state-owned oil company directly accused former President Enrique Peña Nieto and his treasury secretary of directing a scheme of kickbacks and embezzlement directly from the president’s office.

Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Petroleos Mexicanos who himself faces corruption charges, alleges Peña Nieto and Luis Videgaray used the state-owned Pemex as a conduit to “fulfill promises made during the (2012) campaign,” among other allegations he makes in a leaked 60-page document whose authenticity was confirmed by Mexican authorities Wednesday.

“Enrique Peña Nieto and Luis Videgaray Caso created a scheme of corruption in the federal government, in which the common denominator was that all the people who supported in some way the presidential campaign had to be recompensed or repaid,” usually in the form of cushy government contracts, Lozoya wrote.

Lozoya also accused Peña Nieto and Videgaray of extortion, fraud and embezzlement.

"The president and the aforementioned treasury secretary used me to create a criminal conspiracy aimed at enriching themselves, not only by (taking) government funds, but also by extorting money from individuals and companies, fraud and deceit,” he wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of Lozoya’s testimony, and its authenticity was confirmed first by two people with knowledge of the investigation and then by the federal Attorney General’s Office.

Lozoya was captured in southern Spain in February and extradited to Mexico in July to face charges he took over $4 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. But Mexican prosecutors announced they had reached an agreement with Lozoya in which he could avoid jail in return for testifying about corruption in Peña Nieto’s 2012-2018 administration.

Lozoya worked as international relations coordinator of Peña Nieto's campaign in 2012, and he told investigators the bribes paid by Odebrecht to Mexican officials were aimed at not only winning more lucrative public works contracts for the construction giant, but also at influencing Mexico’s planned sweeping energy reform, enacted once Peña Nieto was in office.

Lozoya’ said his job on the campaign was to obtain funding from foreign companies that could be used to pay foreign and Mexican consultants and to help position Peña Nieto’s image internationally.

In early 2012, Videgaray, who was Peña Nieto's campaign manager, allegedly told Lozoya to request $6 million from Odebrecht and tell the company it would be rewarded when Peña Nieto won. Part of that reward would presumably be the openings for private companies contained in the 2013 energy reform of the state-controlled sector.

“As part of the approval of the Pact for Mexico reforms, Enrique Pena Nieto and Luis Videgaray Caso told me in February 2013 that large quantities of money would have to be paid to the opposition so that they would vote in favor of certain structural reforms of interest for President Enrique Pena Nieto,” Lozoya wrote. The cash was to be distributed in transparent plastic bags, so the politicians could see the bills, and in fact a video leaked earlier this week appeared to show one such transaction.

Lozoya named at least a dozen leading opposition figures as participating in bribes, including the 2018 presidential candidate of Peña Nieto's party, José Antonio Meade, who had enjoyed a friendly relationship with López Obrador. Lozoya said about $300,000 was given to Meade and other politicians.

Meade wrote in his Twitter account Wednesday: “I will not contribute to media scandals. ... I have devoted my public life to building a better country, always with absolute honor and legality.”

The opposition politicians mentioned by Lozoya include a half dozen former senators, among them the current governor of the border state of Tamaulipas, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. Lozoya also accused then-congressman Ricardo Anaya, who went on to become the 2018 presidential candidate for the conservative National Action Party, and other leading National Action figures.

Lozoya said former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari also participated, allegedly acting on behalf of National Action, known as the PAN, though the ex-president was a member of Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party. Lozoya wrote that “the attitude of the PAN members in obtaining resources (money) was brutal," and that the party's members received about $4 million in bribes from one company.