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Emilio Lozoya, former director of Pemex. Credit: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images
Emilio Lozoya, former director of Pemex. Credit: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

Former CEO of PEMEX, Emilio Lozoya, will be extradited to Mexico

Emilio Lozoya has agreed to be extradited to his native country after fleeing corruption charges and being detained in Málaga.

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Emilio Lozoya Austin was the head of Mexico's state-run oil company, Petroleos de Mexico (PEMEX), from 2012 to 2016. He occupied the position throughout the majority of the tenure of Mexico’s former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, for whom he was a top ally. 

Lozoya had to escape from Mexican authorities because he was charged with accepting millions of dollars in bribes as part of the Odebrecht scandal, in which the Brazilian multinational construction firm admitted to paying nearly $800 million to officials across Latin America to assure lucrative building contracts. 

The former oil company head had made two large negotiations which stoked suspicion among the public. 

One involved PEMEX’s purchase of an out of service fertilizer plant in Veracruz for $475 million from Mexican manufacturer Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA), France 24 reported that it was valued at $50 million.  AHMSA then transferred $3.6 million to a shell company in Switzerland that had ties to Lozoya via a subsidiary of Odebrecht. 

Lozoya also received a $10 million bribe from Odebrecht to allow the company to do refinery work in Tula, Hidalgo. 

The contract between PEMEX and Odebrecht for the deal was worth upwards of $100 million

Luis Alberto de Meneses Weyll, Odebrecth’s former Mexican director, said that $4 million of the payment to Lozoya was realized in 2012 when he was working as a member of the presidential campaign committee for Peña Nieto. 

Due to his connections to Lozoya, Peña Nieto allowed for an investigation into his ally’s dealings after he left PEMEX, but never brought up charges against him. Any accusations could have had the possibility of implicating president Peña Nieto, who was already seeing a plummeting approval rating that was in the teens, and further tanking the chances of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in the 2018 presidential election. 

Populist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the election in a landslide on a message of promising to fight systemic corruption in Mexico. 

His attorney general, Alejandro Gertz Manero, was successful in having bribery and tax fraud charges filed against Lozoya. He also managed to get the help of Interpol to locate him as well as other individuals related to the dealings. 

After the charges were filed in May of last year, Lozoya fled from Mexico. Interpol found his mother within months hiding in Germany as well as the director of AHMSA, who was hiding in Spain. 

The former oil executive turned fugitive was located in February in an exclusive residential compound with golf courses along the southern coast of Spain called La Zagaleta

In March he was transferred to Madrid’s Penitentiary Center. 

According to the Mexican attorney general, Lozoya had already agreed to be extradited last week and signed a request, but it was not until Monday that the Spain’s National Administrative Tribunal agreed to move forward with the process. 

The extradition of Lozoya marks a great step in López Obrador’s campaign promise of fighting to root out corruption. 

Once on Mexican soil, Lozoya will have to make his case and testify in front of a Mexican court. Many wonder if his testimony will bring down other officials from Peña Nieto’s administration.

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