Former Pemex Director Emilio Lozoya. Photo: Google

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR) changed its mind at the last minute — as it has in the past — leaving former Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) Director Emilio Lozoya still in prison on Tuesday, April 12, after having negotiated his release in exchange for returning $10.7 million to the state-run oil giant.

Late Monday, April 11, Mexican Federal Judge Artemio Zúñiga postponed the Tuesday hearing in which Pemex and Lozoya were slated to formalize the reparation agreement that would have meant his release from prison.

The postponement of the hearing, which the FGR said was requested by Pemex at the last minute, occurred after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) declared in his morning press conference that the amount that Lozoya had agreed to be released was “insufficient to repair the damage to the Treasury.”

In response, Zúñiga canceled the hearing on Tuesday until further notice, leaving Lozoya still stuck in the North Prison

Lozoya, who served at Pemex’s head under former President Enrique Peña Nieto, finally agreed to the terms of a deal proposed by the FGR on Saturday, April 9, based on a reparation agreement in the Odebrecht and Agronitrogenados cases in which he is facing charges, federal authorities reported.

Under the agreement, Pemex accepted an offer of $10.7 million — equivalent to more than 220 million pesos — to be paid off by Lozoya to “repair the damage” in both cases in exchange for the conditional suspension of his two criminal proceedings and his immediate release from the North Prison, where he has been held since November 2021 after having been deemed a flight risk pending his trial on corruption charges.

Prior to November, Lozoya had been under house arrest since he was extradited back to Mexico from Spain in July 2020, but his bail was revoked following public outcry when he was photographed eating at a high-end restaurant in Mexico City.

His lawyers had negotiated his release for Tuesday “within the framework of a reparations scheme,” in which he would pay back the money he is alleged to owe in installments over the next eight and a half months, but late Monday, April 11, members of the court overseeing the case said that they would have to review the agreement before releasing Lozoya.

FGR sources said that Lozoya would pay $7.385 million for alleged bribes from the Brazilian-based Odebrecht construction company and $3.4 million for the now-defunct Agronitrogenados fertilizer plant bought by Pemex in 2015 from Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA), which he owns.

Odebrecht in a December 2016 international settlement admitted to having paid $788 million in bribes in exchange for business in 12 countries — including Mexico — across Latin America and Africa from 2001 to 2016.

The Agronitrogenados fertilizer plant was sold to Pemex by Lozoya, allegedly at a price way beyond its real worth.

In accordance with the agreement, the first repayment by Lozoya in each of the two cases would be for $1 million, and the remainder would have to be paid in installments, no later than Dec. 31 of this year.

Lozoya would present five real estate properties as collateral, including his residence in Lomas de Bezares and his wife’s beach house in Ixtapa, homes that the FGR has claimed were purchased with bribes that the AHMSA paid him.

The former Pemex official also offered his father’s residence in Colonia Bosques del Pedregal and another in the same neighborhood that was inherited by his grandmother.

According to the FGR sources, the Prosecutor’s Office would also withdraw criminal charges against Gilda Margarita Austin y Solís, Gilda Susana Lozoya Austin and Marielle Helene Eckes, Lozoya’s mother, sister and wife, respectively.

Lozoya admitted to bribery accusations during his time as head of Pemex from 2012 to 2016, but has maintained that he was part of a larger scheme and operated at the direction of the government, pointing the finger at many former high-ranking Mexican government officials, including Peña Nieto.

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