MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday that the upcoming trial of the former chief executive officer of state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, who is currently being extradited from Spain, will help the country make inroads in its fight against corruption.
“This voluntary extradition will be a big help in the process of purifying public life, cleaning up corruption in the country,” Lopez Obrador said when asked about the trial of Emilio Lozoya at a press conference in Zapopan, a city in the western state of Jalisco.
The head of state – popularly known as AMLO – said the former Pemex CEO has the “commitment to provide information about the alleged fraud he’s accused of,” including his purported acceptance of bribes paid by Brazilian engineering giant Odebrecht.
“It’s going to be interesting and important because, as I’ve always said, it’s best to uproot corruption and stigmatize corruption. Call the corrupt individual by name,” Lopez Obrador said.
AMLO, whose anti-corruption message won over many voters during his successful 2018 run to the presidency, said that before he took office corrupt people in Mexico “didn’t even lose their respectability” and were even upheld as “very astute and business-savvy.”
Lozoya, who was Pemex’s CEO between 2012-2016 during then-President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, is charged with defrauding the government of approximately $280 million through Pemex’s 2013 purchase of a fertilizer plant that had not been operational for more than a decade.
He is accused in that case of accepting millions in bribes from Mexican steelmaker Altos Hornos de Mexico.
Lozoya also is accused of accepting some $10.5 million in bribes from Odebrecht, which reached a settlement in December 2016 with the United States’ Department of Justice in which it and its petrochemical unit, Braskem, pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world in exchange for contracts.
The companies agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the US, Brazil and Switzerland arising out of those schemes.
As part of the settlement, Odebrecht has been cooperating with prosecutors in the affected countries to bring corrupt officials to justice.
An Interpol Red Notice for Lozoya’s arrest was issued in May 2019, and he was taken into custody on Feb. 12 in Malaga, Spain.
Lozoya, meanwhile, is said to have recordings in his possession that show evidence of bribery related to the passage of a 2013 energy sector overhaul and which could implicate senior officials in Peña Nieto’s administration.
Lozoya is expected to arrive in Mexico later Thursday and will be transferred directly to Mexico City’s Reclusorio Prison for his first court hearing.