13 Feb 2020
Spanish police on Wednesday arrested Emilio Lozoya, the former chief executive of Mexico’s state oil firm Pemex, giving President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador his first high-profile win in his government’s anti-corruption drive.
Lozoya, who has not been seen publicly since mid-2019, is accused in Mexico of corruption related to a wide-ranging bribery and money laundering case involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA. He has denied wrongdoing.
His detention is a major coup for Lopez Obrador, a leftist who won power on an anti-graft platform and who has sought to paint former administration officials as members of a corrupt elite since taking office in December 2018.
Lozoya, who was indicted in Mexico last year, was one of former President Enrique Pena Nieto’s closest aides, and ran Petróleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, from 2012 to 2016.
Lozoya was detained in the Spanish city of Malaga, the police said.
Lozoya’s lawyer, Javier Coello, said his client had yet to decide whether to fight extradition from Spain or return voluntarily from Mexico.
“It’s his personal decision. We have all the evidence necessary to defend him,” he told Mexican TV station Milenio.
While Lopez Obrador employs fierce anti-corruption rhetoric, his administration has not pursued any former Mexican presidents for graft and formal charges have only been pressed against one ex-minister in Pena Nieto’s scandal-plagued administration.
However, the U.S. government has in recent months launched a series of court cases against former Mexican officials, including Peno Nieto ally and former top security official, Genaro Garcia Luna.
The head of Mexico’s Public Administration Ministry, Irma Sandoval, congratulated Mexico’s attorney general on Twitter for the arrest of Lozoya, whom she branded a “representative and operator of the worst structural corruption.”
By Adriana Barrera and Emma Pinedo, Reuters, 12 February 2020
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