President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

21 August 2020

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the money stolen by corrupt officials to be returned. A key witness in Obrador’s battle against corruption had accused former presidents, ministers and lawmakers of graft. A photocopy of a 63-page declaration by Emilio Lozoya, a former chief executive of national oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), began circulating in Mexican media. Mexican authorities have confirmed authenticity of the document.

In this document Lozoya accused ex-presidents Felipe Calderon, Carlos Salinas, and Enrique Pena Nieto, former finance minister, Luis Videgaray, and more than a dozen others of corruption.

Lopez Obrador said that the leaked testimony was very serious, but its accusations need to be properly investigated by the Attorney General’s office. He also said that he would try to revoke a 100-year concession given to an affiliate of Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison Holdings Limited. He questioned how it was possible for a private company to secure such a long hold on the concession. Hutchison Ports ICAVE, part of CK Hutchison Holdings, operates in the port of Veracruz, one of Mexico’s most important cargo hubs.

Lozoya was given the status of cooperating witness. Following that he revealed that Odebrecht had financed the presidential campaign that brought Pena Nieto to power in 2012. The Odebrecht scandal has brought down ex-presidents and top officials in countries including Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Lozoya also said that Carlos Salinas, who was president from 1988 to 1994, lobbied for one of his sons to receive projects from PEMEX. He also alleged that during Calderon’s 2006-2012 term in office, an Odebrecht subsidiary was given favourable conditions for the construction of a petrochemical plant.

Lozoya who was on the run, but was captured in southern Spain in February and extradited to Mexico in July to face charges that he took over $4 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. Now that he is a state witness, he would be able to avoid jail.

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 be by the openings for private companies to get contracts in the state-controlled energy sector. But in order to get this energy reform bill passed, Peña Nieto paid large quantities of money to the opposition party members. The cash was to distributed in transparent plastic bags, and in fact a video leaked earlier this week showed one such transaction.

Lozoya said Peña Nieto and Videgaray instructed him to buy an outdated fertilizer plant at an excessive price from one private company. It could also be an attempt by Lozoya to shift the blame from himself. According to charges filed against Lozoya earlier this year, the Mexican firm, Altos Hornos de Mexico, sold the overpriced old fertilizer plant to Pemex after allegedly paying Lozoya around $3.4 million in bribes in 2012. According to prosecutors, the money went through accounts controlled by Lozoya and his sister, and they used most of it to buy a house in an upscale neighbourhood in the capital.

Videgaray, is currently a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Channel News Asia reported.