Corruption trial of ex-PEMEX boss begins in Mexico

©Agence France-Presse

Former boss of Mexican state oil company PEMEX, Emilio Lozoya, pictured during his arrest in Marbella in February, 2020, is accused of two counts of corruption

Mexico City (AFP) - The former boss of Mexican state oil giant PEMEX went on trial on Tuesday, accused of taking bribes to fund a presidential campaign, official sources said.

Emilio Lozoya is accused of corruption for authorizing PEMEX's acquisition between 2013 and 2015 of a rundown fertilizer factory for $485 million, a price prosecutors considered suspiciously high given it had been unused for 14 years.

The trial at a court in Mexico City began by videoconference as Lozoya has been in hospital suffering from anaemia since returning to Mexico on July 17 following his extradition from Spain.

Lozoya, 45, entered a plea of not guilty.

He is also charged with taking $4 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying huge sums of money across Latin American to win public works contracts.

Prosecutors have yet to read out the charges relating to the Odebrecht scandal.

Part of the Odebrecht bribe was allegedly used to pay for the presidential campaign that brought Enrique Pena Nieto to power in 2012. Lozoya had been Pena Nieto's chief international strategist.

The prosecution said a new fertilizer factory would have "cost $200-$300 million" and accused Lozoya of having "encouraged an illegal activity" by approving the purchase of an "inactive business at a higher price."

Lozoya said he had voluntarily accepted his extradition from Spain and would provide evidence in his defense.

"I will demonstrate that I'm not responsible or guilty of the crimes attributed to me," according to a transcription provided by the court.

Lozoya is accused of having received a $3 million payment from the owners of the fertilizer plant prior to its sale, with which he bought a luxurious home in the capital.

A close ally of Pena Nieto, who was president from 2012-16, Lozoya claims he owned the home in question prior to being appointed head of PEMEX in December 2012.

His fugitive sister Gilda Lozoya and businessman Alonso Ancira, who managed the sale of the fertilizer plant and is subject to an extradition process from Spain, have also been accused over the purchase.