MEXICO CITY – An attorney representing the embattled former CEO of Mexican state oil company Pemex said on Wednesday that ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto should be called to testify about corruption allegations against his client.
Emilio Lozoya, who managed Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) during most of Peña Nieto’s 2012-2018 term, remains at large more than a month after a judge ordered his arrest in a case involving the oil giant’s purchase of a fertilizer plant.
Lozoya’s lawyer, Javier Coello, held a press conference here to insist that Peña Nieto and former Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray should both be questioned regarding the instructions they gave his client while he was running Pemex.
The accusations against Lozoya stem from Pemex’s acquisition of a plant belonging to Agro Nitrogenados, a company led by Alonso Ancira and Xavier Autrey Maza, the owners of steelmaker Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA).
Ancira was arrested on May 28 in Mallorca, Spain, on a warrant requested by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office.
At the time of the purchase, Autrey Maza’s nephew, Arturo Henriquez Autrey, was head of Pemex’s procurement and supply division.
Controversy over the deal began in 2017, when government auditors said the plant was in terrible condition and that the purchase exposed Pemex to as much as $1 billion in potential liabilities.
Coello, however, said Wednesday that the plant was purchased with the idea of rehabilitating it.
He also said it was “incomprehensible” that prosecutors were not seeking to question then-members of the Pemex board of directors about the acquisition of the Agro Nitrogenados facility.
Asked about Lozoya’s whereabouts, the attorney said his client was somewhere in Mexico and that he would appear before a judge once “the pertinent legal conditions” were in place.
Lozoya is prepared to share what he knows about many topics, including the theft of fuel from pipelines – which generated losses of $3.4 billion in 2018 alone – and “how the Pemex coffers were emptied,” Coello said.
Coello and his son, also a lawyer, denied that their having represented current Attorney General Alejandro Gertz in a legal matter in 2015 creates a conflict of interest which would disqualify them as acting as counsel for Lozoya.