MEXICO CITY – Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht transferred more than $3 million to a company allegedly linked to former Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) CEO Emilio Lozoya during the 2012 presidential campaign, a non-governmental organization said.
The construction company executed several money transfers to Latin American Asia Capital Holding, a Virgin Islands corporation identified “as the company through which bribes were paid to Lozoya,” Mexicanos Contra la Corrupcion y la Impunidad (MCCI) said, citing figures from bank account statements at Antigua-based Meinl Bank, a unit of Odebrecht.
Lozoya, who was appointed Pemex’s CEO by President Enrique Peña Nieto in late 2012 and left his post in January 2016, was serving at the time as international outreach director for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
“Mexico’s 2012 presidential campaign started on March 30 and the deposits from Odebrecht started to flow three weeks later,” MCCI said in a report released on Monday, adding that when “the campaigning period ended” on June 27, “the money transfers stopped almost simultaneously.”
Odebrecht resumed transferring money on Nov. 7, 2012, but the funds went to Zecapan, another company linked to Lozoya.
A few days later, Peña Nieto met with Marcelo Odebrecht, MCCI said, citing an email chain obtained by the Brazilian Federal Police to which it had access.
On Sunday, the Brazilian daily O Globo and Mexico’s El Quinto Elemento Lab reported that Luis Alberto Meneses Weyll, the former top Odebrecht executive in Mexico, said that Lozoya asked him for $5 million in March 2012 “as payment for having helped position the company in Veracruz,” a Gulf state home to numerous oil facilities.
Odebrecht agreed to pay $4 million because “Lozoya stood out as an influential official in the incoming Peña administration,” MCCI said.
The Brazilian construction company ended up paying a total of $10 million in bribes to Lozoya to win a $115 million contract to modernize a refinery, O Globo reported.
Lozoya’s attorney, Javier Coello, told Radio Formula on Monday that the stories published about his client were “totally false.”
“There is no evidence ... that any money was deposited into Mr. Lozoya’s account,” Coello said.
On Sunday, the Attorney General’s Office said the investigation into Odebrecht’s alleged corrupt activities in Mexico would be carried out fully.
“This case will be pushed to its final consequences and directly against those responsible,” the AG’s office said in a statement.
The Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Investigation of Federal Crimes (SEIDF), which is handling the case, has been in “constant communication with authorities in Brazil” to obtain information about Odebrecht’s dealings in Mexico, the AG’s office said.
Odebrecht is one of the companies ensnared in Brazil’s so-called Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation, in which several engineering and construction firms are accused of paying bribes to officials at state-controlled oil company Petrobras in exchange for inflated contracts.
Extra money from the scheme was allegedly paid out to politicians who provided cover for the graft.
An aggressive investigation that started in 2014 has led to prison terms for dozens of executives and politicians involved in the $2 billion bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme.
Among those caught up in the corruption scandal was former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was sentenced on July 12 to nine years and six months in prison in connection with the Petrobras scheme.
On Aug. 1, the Brazilian Attorney General’s Office extended the investigation for another year.
Odebrecht is also under investigation in several other Latin American countries after the builder and its petrochemical unit, Braskem, reached a settlement in December with the US Department of Justice in which they pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.
The companies agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland arising out of those schemes.