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Dead witnesses, Swiss companies and late bribes: the loose ends of the 'Odebrecht case'

2021-09-27T04:10:51.311Z

Jurists and lawyers point out the inconsistencies of the cataract of accusations launched by Emilio Lozoya that has kept the investigation stalled for more than a year. The COUNTRY reconstructs the events reported to the prosecution by the former director of Pemex



Odebrecht's headquarters in Sao Paulo.

Almeida / Getty

More than a year and a half after the arrest of Emilio Lozoya, the

Odebrecht case

continues in no man's land, bogged down with extensions and delays that already exceed the legal deadlines.

The corruption plot linked to the Brazilian construction company, which in recent years has put the political class in check in several Latin American countries, caused a first shock in Mexico with the preliminary statements of the former director of Pemex.

In August of last year, Lozoya launched a cataract of accusations spread among the highest of the last two Mexican governments.

Since then, only one of those pointed out laterally has been in jail while the shadow of impunity and the political use of the case grows.

More information

  • Odebrecht's fight against corruption crashes in the shadow of impunity

  • The investigation of the 'Odebrecht case' extends the focus to Calderón's six-year term

  • The 16 politicians pointed out by Lozoya

Lozoya's defense commitment has been to request a figure known as a criterion of opportunity that in practice has turned him into a kind of protected witness / collaborator. It is an agreement by which, in exchange for "providing essential and effective information on a more serious crime", the detainee would obtain, if the judge grants him the so-called criterion of opportunity, that the criminal action be withdrawn. That is, he would be released without even having started the trial. The strategy has kept Lozoya out of jail for the time being, pending the preliminary decision of the judge, who continues to investigate the accusations made by the former director of Pemex. The thesis to be demonstrated is that former president Enrique Peña Nieto and his right hand, Luis Videgaray,they were the ones who orchestrated and planned the bribes of 10 million dollars distributed between the PRI electoral campaign in 2012 and the payments to opposition legislators to approve the energy reform.

The consulate lawyers for this report consider that the defense strategy does not hold up and that this is the reason for so many delays.

The former director of Pemex has already added four extensions to convince the judge, exceeding the six months established by law.

Lozoya is unable to tie his lifeline but the case has a sea of ​​ramifications with up to 16 politicians involved: three former presidents, two presidential candidates and 11 legislators.

EL PAÍS then reconstructs the sequence of events and names reported by Lozoya in his statements to the prosecution, to which this newspaper has had access.

Peña Nieto's two meals in Brazil

Odebrecht's relationship with the PRI officially began in 2012 with the electoral campaign of Enrique Peña Nieto and with Lozoya as liaison for the Brazilian construction company in his position as international coordinator of the campaign. But earlier, in 2010, a trip to Brazil by the still governor of the State of Mexico opened the first door. On that tour, a meal was scheduled with Lula da Silva in Brasilia. The former Brazilian president was finally unable to attend, but Marcelo Odebrecth was. The powerful president of the construction company would be arrested five years later in his luxurious house in São Paulo and his denunciations to the Justice system have gravitated the mega-drama of corruption and bribery that has made countries such as Peru, Colombia or Brazil itself stagger.

The purpose of that tour was to start selling Peña Nieto's candidacy to foreign capital. The Brazilian construction company showed a special interest in the energy reform, which was already being promoted by the PRI at that time, with an eye on the works contracts that would be opened with the liberalization of the market. At the end of the meal, the Odebrecht president offered his financial support to the future candidate. "I was a witness to that conversation, which was conducted in Spanish and lasted 5-10 minutes," says Lozoya in his statement. A second meal would take place two years later, this time at Marcelo Odebrecht's own house in Sao Paulo and with Peña Nieto as president-elect. The event was attended by the entire transition team, led by the future Secretary of the Treasury Videgaray,already become the right hand of the president in his dealings with the Brazilian construction company.

Lozoya's relationship with Odebrecht is in any case older. Son of an illustrious PRI, master at Harvard, Lozoya's successful passage through the world of investment banking before learning about politics put him in contact with Luis Weyll, director of Odebrecht in Mexico, opening doors for the Brazilian construction company both in Mexico as in the United Arab Emirates. In 2012, already in charge of the campaign, Lozoya met in a cafeteria in Lomas de Chapultepec with Weyll, at the request of Peña Nieto and Luis Videgaray. At that meeting, Lozoya asked Weyll for $ 6 million for the PRI campaign. Finally there were 4 divided into 2.5 for the campaign, destined to pay foreign consultants. And another 1.5 for Lozoya's own pocket.

Peña Nieto and Emilio Lozoya at the World Energy Summit of the Future, in Abu Dhabi, in 2016. Cuartoscuro

In his complaint, he relates that the money was transferred to a Swiss company owned by him and in which his sister, Gilda Susana Lozoya, appeared as the beneficiary, on whom an arrest warrant for money laundering weighs.

The funds were transferred by Odebrecht from a bank located on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Lozoya has provided dates and amounts as well as a list of consultants for the payments by express indication of Peña Nieto and Videgaray.

"Due to the type of crime, documentary evidence is more decisive than testimonial", points out Javier Martín Reyes, professor of Legal Studies at CIDE.

“The Prosecutor's Office should have already made information requests to the banks according to the collaboration agreements.

But the question is whether the information that Lozoya has revealed is sufficient to sustain the processing of the rest of the accused ", adds the jurist, who points to an interested management of the rhythms of the investigation according to political interests:" It seems that in his At the moment (August of last year) Lozoya's statement, with all its accusations, served them in the face of the electoral campaign in June of this year.

But all these extensions and delays may indicate that the information is very partial and not very specific to move forward with the prosecutions. "

Dead witnesses

Of the entire cascade of names and accusations, Lozoya also cites five witnesses with direct involvement in the plot. Two of them, key in the triangulation and delivery of the bribes, are dead. On the one hand, the businesswoman Fabiola Tapia, sister of Juan Carlos Tapia, owner of an Odebrecht partner construction company. Of the 4 million dollars agreed to pay for the electoral campaign, only 3.1 was transferred to the Swiss account. The rest, $ 850,000, was paid by the entrepreneur Tapia in cash. The deal was that Tapia would later give Weyll an account for the refund.

The businesswoman also appears as the hinge to triangulate and turn into liquid the other 6 million destined to bribe opposition legislators to carry out the energy reform. "The money was deposited abroad because Fabiola indicated it, and she put it in cash in Mexico," says Lozoya. The businesswoman died in 2014 in Peru. Another key figure in the delivery of the bribes, José Velasco Herrera, Pemex's chief aides, also died in 2013. According to Lozoya's statement, Velasco is the one who delivered the transparent suitcases and bank bags “that allowed us to see the denomination of the banknotes. ”.

“The death of both poses the problem that you cannot call them to testify to corroborate the complaint.

And you cannot call them to offer them the benefits that Lozoya has as the criterion of opportunity, which is what the authorities usually do in these cases: seek the collaboration of those involved to go after the big shots, ”says the CIDE lawyer.

In addition to the two deceased, Lozoya also promised to present as witnesses three other characters involved in the delivery of the money: his private secretary, Rodrigo Arteaga Santoyo, Francisco Olascoaga, former head of department at Pemex, and Norberto Gallardo, former member of the State Major and his chief of bodyguards.

According to leaks to the Mexican press, only the latter would have corroborated the complaints of the former director of Pemex.

A kick to the flag of Mexico

One night in March 2014, during a business event in Texas, Lozoya said that PAN Senator Francisco Dominguez Servién was "in a drunken state" and in a fit of anger he took the flag of Mexico and threw it to the ground shouting "this it is a betrayal because they do not comply with the delivery of the agreed amount ”.

Since February 2013, Lozoya had been tasked with dividing the money among opposition lawmakers to pass the energy reform.

The former director of Pemex details numerous meetings in his office of the state oil company with a group of PAN senators.

“His attitude to obtain resources was brutal.

They pressured and extorted gasoline groups and various Pemex contractors, ”says Lozoya.

Ricardo Anaya during the 2018 presidential campaignMarco Ugarte / AP

They even asked him for 50 million dollars. Finally, the amount provided by Odebrecht was 6 million, which at first was dedicated to obtaining a contract at the Pemex refinery in Tula, in the state of Hidalgo. But according to Lozoya's version, "the money was used in its entirety for structural reforms." The complaint points to six legislators: Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, Francisco Domínguez Servién, Salvador Vega Casillas, José Luis Lavalle Maury, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca and Ricardo Anaya. Some deals personally supervised by Videgaray: "he wrote down the names of the legislators and the amounts in cash given to the groups of legislators." Appointments for the delivery of the money, adds Lozoya, were made through text messages between various telephone numbers of disposable devices.

At the moment, only Lavalle is on trial and in prison. In the judge's decision, last April, the testimony of a Senate technician, Rafael Caraveo, has weighed, who according to the statements leaked to the media, acknowledged having received "a black cloth suitcase with bundles of 500 bills pesos". Caraveo appears in the Lozoya complaint as the senators' operator for the exchange of money. In another leak, the person in charge of Lozoya's security, Norberto Gallardo, assured that in August 2014 he delivered 6.8 million pesos in a “sports bag” to Ricardo Anaya and his “link” Osiris Hernández in the parking lot of the Chamber. of Deputies. Following the formal indictment by the FGR, Anaya announced her exile outside of Mexico.During a first hearing conducted by zoom, the judge agreed with the defense, who claimed that they did not have access to the file. Another of the criticisms of the former presidential candidate for the PAN is that the dates for the delivery of the money were altered to fit with his stage in parliament.

The lawyers consulted emphasize that access to the file by the accused is a basic pillar of the Mexican judicial system, essential to know the crimes that are charged and the evidence against them.

But nevertheless, the denial of that access is a general practice on the part of the Prosecutor's Office.

Anaya has not been the only one who has claimed that basic right as a defendant.

Nor is the first one who has refused to attend the hearings in person before the judge of the North Prison.

The fact that the appointments are with the judge of a prison is another anomaly that experts point out.

Overdue bribes

Lozoya's accusations also extend to Felipe Calderón's six-year term (2006-2012). Shortly after starting his first steps as director of Pemex, Lozoya learned of a corrupt plot during the years 2011 and 2012. The sale in exchange for millionaire bribes of ethane gas by Pemex to a Mexican subsidiary of Odebrecht, Braskem, with a 25% discount on the market price. Among the names pointed out by Lozoya are Pemex executives such as Carlos Treviño Medina, as well as the then secretaries of the Treasury, Ernesto Cordero, and of Energy, Jose Antonio Meade, who was in turn the last PRI presidential candidate. Lozoya even talks about a meeting of the Braskem board of directors held at the presidential residence of Los Pinos with the presence of Felipe Calderon and the invitation of Marcelo Odebrecht.

At the end of the PAN administration, Lozoya points out that Odebrecht continued to press for the contract to be extended during Peña Nieto's term.

In this context, Videgaray announces that Odebrecht's “debts” exist with PAN officials and that their payment was conditional on the contract being extended.

At the beginning of 2013, Lozoya received a call from Meade, who had remained in the new PRI government.

The then foreign minister of Peña Nieto asked him "not to criticize or review the Ethylene XXI contract as it was very important to the president."

From there, Odebrecht releases an additional 84 million pesos in cash to pay those late bribes.

Former President Felipe Calderón in a 2014 act Leigh Vogel

The figures are distributed between 4 million for Meade and 4.3 for Jose Antonio González Anaya, a senior official in the Ministry of Finance and future director of Pemex. And another 4 for Treviño. The resources were delivered by the former head of the Lozoya bodyguards, Norberto Gallardo, to their personal homes. "Videgaray's precise instruction was that said amounts should be delivered in a portfolio of work and it should be clear that said deliveries were by Videgaray," Lozoya remarks in his complaint.

Emphasizing the prominence of both Videgaray and Peña Nieto is a constant throughout the pages of the statement of the former director of Pemex. The objective is to consolidate the narrative that they were the architects of the corrupt plot and Lozoya a mere manager at their command. But more than a year after the start of the investigation, neither the Prosecutor's Office nor the judge have yet managed to tie up all that battery of accusations with evidence. "They are looking for a logic to something that is essentially absurd, there are no premises that allow a criminal justification", affirms the constitutional lawyer Luis Pérez de Acha. "Not even the criterion of opportunity is upheld: What more serious crimes could there be than those already charged to Lozoya?", Adds the expert.

In May of last year, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed the prosecution's attempts to seat Videgaray before a judge.

Up to two times the FGR has already presented arrest warrants against the former strongman of the Peña Nieto government.

On both occasions, a criminal judge from the Norte prison returned the case to the Prosecutor's Office due to the inconsistencies in the request.

Following the logic that they must be crimes of greater importance than those attributed to Lozoya - bribery, illicit association and operations with resources of illicit origin - the FGR seeks to tie the accusation to Videgaray on the basis of the crime of treason.

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Source: elparis

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