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Extreme corruption on charge sheet of Mexico’s ex-oil chief

July 6, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2017 file photo, Emilio Lozoya, former head of Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex, gives a press conference in Mexico City. Lozoya, who was arrested in February 2020 by Spanish police on an international warrant issued by Mexico, has dropped his extradition fight and agreed to return to Mexico to cooperate in corruption investigations, according to Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Gustavo Martinez Contreras, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2017 file photo, Emilio Lozoya, former head of Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex, gives a press conference in Mexico City. Lozoya, who was arrested in February 2020 by Spanish police on an international warrant issued by Mexico, has dropped his extradition fight and agreed to return to Mexico to cooperate in corruption investigations, according to Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Gustavo Martinez Contreras, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The charge sheet against the former head of Mexico’s state-run oil company claims he took corruption to such lengths that he diverted bribe money intended for the former ruling party to buy a $1.9 million house for his family.

The prosecutors’ allegations against Emilio Lozoya were released Monday after Spain approved his extradition to face charges equivalent to money laundering, bribery and conspiracy. But Lozoya could face charges other than those for which he was arrested in Spain. Lozoya has denied wrongdoing.

Mexican officials have said he has offered to talk about millions of dollars in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and the 2015 purchase of a fertilizer plant by Pemex at an inflated price.

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On Sunday, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Lozoya “has offered to talk,” and many in Mexico had expected Lozoya might implicate others in the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, perhaps including former president Enrique Peña Nieto, who governed Mexico from 2012 to 2018.

There had been speculation that Lozoya, who helped run Peña Nieto’s 2012 campaign, used bribe money to get his boss elected.

But according to court papers released Monday, Lozoya asked Oderbrecht for $4 million for the PRI campaign in 2012 — and then spent half of it on a property in his wife’s name.

“In exchange for his help ... in March 2012, the defendant asked for a payment to help support the PRI political campaign,” according to Spain’s Audiencia Nacional. Between April, June and November — the elections were in July — the company deposited $4 million into accounts controlled by Lozoya’s family, but “part of this money was used on August 23, 2013 by his wife Marielle Helen Eckers to buy a property for $1.9 million in the state of Guerrero in Mexico.”

That appears to be a reference to a property in the Pacific coast resort of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo that was briefly seized by Mexican authorities.

2013 appears to have been a lucrative year for Lozoya. The court documents say Oderbrecht allegedly offered him $6 million in bribes to get a contract for renovating an old oil refinery. The Brazilian firm allegedly wound up paying him $5 million.

A Mexican firm, which later sold an over-priced old fertilizer plant to Pemex when Lozoya was director, allegedly paid him $3.4 million in 2012; once again, Lozoya used $2.58 million of the money to buy a property in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood.

Lozoya, who directed Pemex from 2012 to 2016 during the Peña Nieto administration, has always denied wrongdoing, but fled Mexico and led authorities on a monthslong overseas manhunt. Spanish police arrested Lozoya in the southern city of Malaga in February.