Three former Mexican presidents and more than a dozen former secretaries and legislators have been charged with bribery, according to a document attributed to a key witness, in another chapter of the growing corruption scandal shaking the country’s political elite.
Former presidents Enrique Peña Nieto, Felipe Calderon and Carlos Salinas de Gortari are among the 17 Mexican politicians and a journalist appointed by Emilio Lozoya, the disgraced former director of the state giant Mexican oil, in his alleged testimony to Mexican prosecutors, according to a leaked copy of his statement seen by various media outlets.
While the Attorney General did not confirm the authenticity of the document, stamped on August 11, opened an investigation into the leak to journalists on Wednesday, even investigating those who had access to the testimony. At least five of the 17 people named in the document have taken to Twitter to deny the accusations.
The former minister is accused of participating in an embezzlement scandal by diverting some US $ 260 million from federal agencies.
Lozoya, who ran Pemex from late 2012 to early 2016 and was part of Peña Nieto’s inner circle, is cooperating with prosecutors after being extradited from Spain last month to face corruption charges. The case has become the most far-reaching corruption investigation in recent Mexican history and could generate support for the president’s party Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which is running on an anti-corruption platform, ahead of next year’s state and legislative elections.
The document quotes Lozoya as saying that Peña Nieto and his then Secretary of the Treasury, Luis Videgaray, ordered him to funnel bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA into the 2012 presidential campaign. Then, once in power, he was told to pay lawmakers to help pass the country’s historic energy reform in 2013 and 2014 and benefit favored companies.
The company will change its logo and name: now it seeks to be recognized simply by the initials OEC.
Representatives for Peña Nieto did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lozoya’s lawyer, Miguel Ontiveros, said in a statement posted on Twitter that the defense is not responsible for the document and that the case must be kept in court to protect due process.
Communication 02/2020 of the defense of Mr. Emilio Ricardo Lozoya Austin: pic.twitter.com/eruAZ6osEz
– Miguel Ontiveros (@OntiverosAlonso) August 20, 2020
No former Mexican president in modern history has faced corruption charges or been sent to jail. Mexico has lagged behind other Latin American countries in the series of successful cases. Long ago, it failed to prosecute bribery allegations that stemmed from an Odebrecht Brazilian investigation that resulted in the jailing of senior officials in the region, including presidents.
Lozoya’s alleged testimony also alleged that his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, had benefited Odebrecht and that Carlos Salinas, who ruled Mexico from 1988 to 1994, had allegedly helped companies win contracts.
Calderón accused López Obrador of using Lozoya as an instrument of “revenge and political persecution.”
“He is not interested in justice but in a lynching, making ridiculous accusations in my case,” Calderón said about the president in his bill on Twitter Wednesday night.
The illegal and media handling of the case confirms that Lozoya (with the blackmail of having his mother imprisoned) is used by @lopezobrador_ as an instrument of revenge and political persecution. He is not interested in justice, but in lynching, making ridiculous accusations in my case https://t.co/rtHQakHkfH
– Felipe Calderón (@FelipeCalderon) August 20, 2020
The document did not include evidence of Lozoya’s claims, and lawyers have warned that publicity surrounding the case, including López Obrador’s comments during his daily press conference, could be undermining the right to a fair trial. López Obrador has demanded that an alleged video and other evidence of the case be made public.
Jose Antonio Meade, who was named in the document and was serving as chancellor at the time of the complaints and then ran for president under the banner of Peña Nieto’s party, said in a tweet that Lozoya’s status as a protected witness should “serve to to know the truth, not to accuse without evidence those who denounce illicit acts and help to bring this case to justice. “
“I dedicated my public life to building a better country, always with absolute honor and legality,” Meade said.
The president-elect obtained an absolute majority and promised to lead the fourth transformation of Mexico.