Emilio Lozoya, the former Director General of PEMEX accused of taking bribes and managing corruption schemes during the Peña Nieto administration, has now been placed in preventive custody. He entered the Reclusorio Norte jail in Mexico City last night.
A judge issued the order to detain Lozoya and transfer him to prison after federal prosecutors working on the Odebrecht case determined that Lozoya was attempting to “delay and block the process against him” and that he possessed the financial resources necessary to be a flight risk. Throughout this process, Lozoya has declared himself innocent and insisted that he is cooperating with authorities to “undo the damage that took place during his time at PEMEX,” reports El País. He is looking at a prison sentence of up to 35 years with the charges currently filed against him, which include money laundering and involvement in a criminal conspiracy.
Lozoya was first arrested in Spain in February 2020 as evidence in the Odebrecht case and other open investigations into associated political corruption were accumulating and pointing toward the former PEMEX director. At the time, authorities assumed he was already on the run. He was extradited to Mexico under the terms of an agreement to collaborate with authorities. By August, the prospect of Lozoya’s witness testimony had generated a great amount of anticipation. Presiden López Obrador claimed during one of his morning daily press conferences at the time that Lozoya’s evidence would incriminate three of Mexico’s former presidents, along with a small army of ministers and public functionaries.
One year later, however, Lozoya’s accusations failed to bear fruit. Prosecutors decided not to subpoena former President Peña Nieto in August 2021 due to the fragility of the case being pushed by Lozoya, who had so far named two corroborating witnesses who had both failed to back up his version of events. The only person who had been held in custody as a result of Lozoya’s accusations was former PAN Senator Jorge Luis Lavalle, who ended up defending himself by offering even more witness testimony and evidence than Lozoya.
All of this tension over Lozoya’s status as a protected witness came to a head last month when he was spotted at an upscale restaurant in Mexico City, inciting a public outrage over the perceived oligarchic unfairness of Mexico’s justice system, especially after his lawyer Miguel Ontiveros revealed the fact that Lozoya had never even been placed under house arrest. It is believed that the political pressure enacted by this event prompted the current order to transfer Lozoya to a major prison facility. Ontiveros has already visited his client and claims to be currently negotiating his immediate release.