Odebrecht bribery probe heats up in Mexico
MEXICO CITY, October 25, 2017 – Members of Mexico’s opposition party took control of the podium in the Senate on Tuesday to protest recent developments in a probe into links between Odebrecht, state oil company Pemex and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
More than 20 senators objected to the Friday firing of electoral prosecutor Santiago Nieto, who was investigating claims that Odebrecht had paid millions to then-PRI official Emilio Lozoya Austin during the 2012 presidential campaign. Furthermore, they allege that the Brazilian conglomerate received several lucrative contracts when Lozoya Austin was head of Pemex, a position which he held from 2013 to 2016.
Opposition leaders are calling Nieto’s dismissal an attempt to cover up corruption.
“What you are doing is very serious,” said Senator Luis Sanchez Jimenez at the Senate podium. “You are trying to get rid of a prosecutor who makes you uncomfortable and replace him with one you are comfortable with.”
Odebrecht is accused of paying the PRI more than USD 3 million. The conglomerate has already acknowledged USD 10.5 million in bribes paid to Pemex officials.
Lozoya Austin was first named in the investigation in August, but he maintains his innocence. In September, Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Administration found MXN 119 million (USD 6.72 million) worth of irregularities in a Tula refinery work contract that Pemex had granted to Odebrecht.
Odebrecht has been mired in a multinational corruption scandal since 2014 and has been implicated in bribery cases in many Latin American countries, as well as several in Africa.