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Peña Nieto Bribery Scheme in Odebrecht Case

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Former president Enrique Peña Nieto led and personally benefited from a criminal scheme within his government that paid bribes to lawmakers and committed treason, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office made the allegations in a document that requested a warrant for the arrest of Peña Nieto-era cabinet minister Luis Videgaray in connection with a bribery case involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

President López Obrador said last week that the Attorney General’s Office had sought an arrest warrant for Videgaray but was blocked by a judge.

Obtained by the newspaper Reforma, the Attorney General’s Office document alleges that Peña Nieto, in office from 2012 to 2018, used Videgaray and former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya as pawns in the criminal scheme he headed up.

Lozoya was extradited to Mexico from Spain on corruption charges in July and is currently awaiting trial. Videgaray, who served as finance minister and foreign minister in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration led by Peña Nieto, left Mexico at the end of the former government’s term.

The Attorney General’s Office document says that on the orders of Peña Nieto, Videgaray distributed 121.5 million pesos in bribes to former National Action Party (PAN) senators Ernesto Cordero and Jorge Luis Lavalle, former PAN national president and 2018 presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya and former PRI senator David Penchyna Grub.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the money came from Odebrecht and was used to bribe the lawmakers in exchange for support for the former government’s structural reforms, in particular the energy reform which opened up the sector to foreign and private companies after an almost 80-year state monopoly.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges that the scheme led by Peña Nieto committed treason because the former government’s structural reforms allow foreign companies to benefit from the exploitation of natural resources that are mandated as national property by the Mexican constitution.

The Attorney General’s Office document, which doesn’t request an arrest warrant for the ex-president, says that the alleged crimes of bribery and treason “required considerable logistical and financial resources” because the government had to lobby Odebrecht for money both in Mexico and abroad.

Once the funds were obtained – former Odebrecht executives have admitted to paying some US $10 million to Peña Nieto’s campaign and government – they had to be transferred, converted to Mexican pesos, stored and delivered to lawmakers, the Attorney General’s Office said. Proposals that benefited the Brazilian company also had to be drawn up, it said.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges that the scheme led by Peña Nieto and operated by Videgaray and Lozoya was akin to “a state within a state.”

The former minister and Pemex chief “implemented a policy of acts of corruption,” the Attorney General’s Office said.

Peña Nieto “had his own apparatus of criminal power” with which “he implemented a strategy of co-optation of the will of lawmakers” in order to ensure the approval of his energy reform, the Attorney General’s Office said. The officials to whom he gave orders were “forced” to comply.

Lozoya, who is cooperating with authorities in the hope that he will be acquitted or given a more lenient sentence, told the Attorney General’s Office in a written submission that Peña Nieto and Videgaray led the Odebrecht bribery scheme in which he was involved.

He has admitted to arranging for bribes to be paid to lawmakers but claims that he was coerced by the ex-president and former minister, effectively depicting himself as a victim of their corruption.

Videgaray has rejected Lozoya’s claims, saying in August that they are “false, absurd, inconsistent and reckless.”

He hasn’t publicly responded to the Attorney General’s Office document exposed by Reforma.

Peña Nieto, whose government was plagued by corruption scandals, has disappeared from public life and has not responded to any recent allegations against him. However, the ex-president has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The federal government intends to hold a referendum next year to ask citizens whether past presidents should face justice for crimes they allegedly committed while in office.

Lozoya also implicated former presidents Felipe Calderón and Carlos Salinas in alleged corruption linked to Odebrecht, while López Obrador has informally accused his five most recent predecessors of all manner of corrupt and illicit activities.

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