By RICARDO CASTILLO
Is one more alleged swindle in about to break in news about Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex)?
Of course not, but it does make for great gossip, particularly if the information about the scam was acquired by Black Cube, an Israeli espionage company that describes its personnel as “a select group of veterans from Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.” For sure, all former Mossad spies.
On Monday, Oct. 14, the Mexican daily newspaper El Universal ran the story telling how it was that Pemex officials in 2012 garnered 2 billion pesos to finance now-former President Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Two Black Cub agents pretending to represent a United Arab Emirates entrepreneur who wanted to establish an oil-related company in Mexico allegedly invited former high Pemex executive José Carlos Pacheco Ledesma to dinner in 2017. In that meeting, Pacheco Ledesma allegedly described the internal operation of a corruption network that squeezed the money through bribes for the PRI candidate, back then a viable winner.
What Pacheco Ledesma apparently did not know was that the Black Cube spies – a man and a woman – recorded the conversation, which has since been released and was being aired on Monday by XEW radio station. Parts of the audio had already been aired by the Aristegui Noticias radio show.
The recording was made public apparently by the company who hired the Black Cube agents, a company named Oro Negro, a private oil platforms company, whose owner, Gonzalo Gil White, was forced into bankruptcy by Pemex officials and was saved only because a judge ruled in his favor.
The agents allegedly told Pacheco Ledesma that their fictitious Emirates contractor was willing to pay a bribe to Pemex officials to benefit Oro Negro, only they did not know how it should be done.
Pacheco Ledesma responded: “That’s not a problem. Normally it is done as a ‘success fee’ because nobody is willing to run the risk that it may be interpreted as amounts that are considered, let’s say, a percent towards a contract.”
Pacheco Ledesma – who worked at Pemex for 25 years and claims never to have participated in acts of corruption, even if he was aware of them – said that many Pemex officials accepted kickbacks through relatives who are known as “operators,” but also through nonexistent or “ghost” consulting companies that issue fake invoices to launder money.
The recorded query by the Israeli agents shows how it was that Pemex deals were used to support the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party to the presidency of Mexico.
Pacheco Ledesma said that those who did not agree to participate in issuing kickbacks were punished, as it happened to Oro Negro, which did not want to participate in corruption to support the candidacy of Peña Nieto. In the recording, Pacheco Ledesma mentioned Emilio Latoya, Peña Nieto’s main campaign finance operator, who was, when victory arrived, appointed Pemex director.
It was Latoya who was the main fundraiser for Peña Nieto, and Pacheco Ledesma said that, while in office until 2016, when he was said to have received $10.5 million for awarding future contracts to Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which Latoya did.
Pacheco Ledesma also claimed that Latoya charged $100,000 to companies wanting to do business with Pemex for an appointment with him.
The fact of all this is that, back in 2012, the Peña Nieto electoral campaign was carried out high on the hog. There was money galore for all expenditures, such as paying for buses to fill up stadiums with supporters who also allegedly got pocket money for attend.
When Peña Nieto visited the Chamber of Deputies in 2013, the members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) — who had supported election loser Andrés Manuel López Obrador and had complained of the humongous amounts of money spent by the PRI in the Peña Nieto campaign — showered the president with hundreds of fake bills to underscore the fact that he had purchased his victory. Peña Nieto took the fake money shower as a prank and happily walked through the aisle.
But now, the ghost of ill-gotten money returns to haunt Peña Nieto, who has been confirmed as the alleged recipient of monies acquired through corruption at Pemex.
Will there be any legal actions in this case? What’s left in Congress of the PRD is now demanding an investigation of the 2012 election. Will there be one? Most likely not, and in particular, there will not be a presidential order since AMLO has said that he is not going to proceed against any former president, even if they are guilty as sin, because of the media hoopla any such case would bring with it.
But, then again, it’s wonderful gossip!