Prosecutors accuse ex-PEMEX boss of taking $10.5m bribe

© Agence France-Presse

Mexican National Guard officers on watch outside the Pedregal de Angeles hospital in Mexico City where former PEMEX boss Emilio Lozoya is receiving treatment for anaemia

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican prosecutors accused the former boss of state oil company PEMEX of accepting a bribe worth more than $10 million from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht at his trial in Mexico City on Wednesday.

Emilio Lozoya is accused of receiving huge payments in return for lucrative public works contracts. 

"You knew that the funds were from Odebrecht and you received $10.5 million as a result of bribes," said a prosecutor at the trial, which is taking place by videoconference.

Prosecutors said Lozoya's mother and wife were also involved in the fraud.

The bribes were allegedly used to buy buildings for family members or transfered to accounts in Europe in a bid to "hide" the origin of the funds.

In return Odebrecht obtained a $39 million "profit" in the "award of works" contracts.

The trial is taking place by videoconference because Lozoya, 45, has been in hospital suffering from anaemia since returning to Mexico on July 17 following his extradition from Spain, where he was captured in February.

Odebrecht delegates "sought his help to benefit from public works contracts and promised him $6 million for various works such as the Tula refinery" in the central Hidalgo state, said prosecutors in a transcript provided to reporters.

Lozoya was also accused of "criminal association" and receiving "illicit payments."

Presidential connection

Prosecutors claim Lozoya used some of the bribes to fund the presidential campaign that brought Enrique Pena Nieto to power in 2012.

Lozoya "tried to hide several payments and bank accounts, particularly when he was" Pena Nieto's chief international strategist prior to the 2012 election, prosecutors said.

A lawyer and economist with a post-graduate degree from Harvard, Lozoya is considered to be the key to discovering whether or not Pena Nieto benefitted from bribes.

Lozoya pleaded not guilty and said he was "intimidated, pressured, influenced and instrumentalized" while adding that he was prepared to "collaborate" with authorities.

The trial began on Tuesday when the same judge read out another charge against Lozoya.

He is accused of 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 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 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.

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