Pemex Grants No-Bid Contracts to Financially Controversial Companies

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Despite possessing bank accounts frozen by order of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and other ongoing non-compliance sanctions, Mexican shipping companies Marinsa and Enermar – subsidiaries of Grupo Cemza – were reportedly granted two shipping contracts, without bidding, to the tune of 160 million pesos by state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) on June 6, allowing the companies to transport materials and equipment in the Campeche Sound until 2024.

Companies under the Grupo Cemza umbrella have been consistent suppliers for Pemex in recent years, with the parent company and its subsidiaries earning 12 billion pesos worth of contracts from the state-owned oil company in 2019 alone.

One of the company’s 2019 contracts, for the sum of 231 million pesos, was eventually canceled due to the close association of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) cousin, Felipa Obrador Olán, during the contract’s procurement.

The company’s controversies have only grown in 2023, as allegations of money laundering against Grupo Cemza and its leadership culminated in the FIU freezing the investments, credit cards and accounts of Grupo Cemza President José Luis Zavala Solís and his brother José Antonio Zavala Solís last February.

Following the FIU’s actions against the company, and the Grupo Cemza’s demonstrated non-compliance in paying financial penalties from previous contract terminations, Pemex’s legal sector prohibited the state-owned oil company from granting any additional contracts with Marinsa on March 28, though said policy was eventually lifted on April 20, allowing for the granting of the two new contracts on June 6. 

In light of the FIU’s actions, Marinsa, Enermar and six other Grupo Cemza subsidiaries filed an amparo against the freezing of their accounts on Feb. 27, citing an “unconstitutional investigation carried out at the FIU,” which was eventually granted by federal judge Sandra de Jesús Zúñiga on April 24.

However, FIU Head Pablo Gómez announced the organization’s non-compliance with said judgment on May 4, saying the FIU could not comply with the amparo due to Zavala Solís’s purported money laundering and the financial organizations needs to comply with Mexico’s international financial crimes obligations.

De Jesús Zúñiga subsequently declared an issue of non-compliance corresponding to the FIU’s blockage of the granted amparo on May 23, resulting in the company’s accounts at HSBC and Monex becoming unfrozen last week. 

The FIU’s filed an appeal against the decision, which was then dismissed by Mexico’s First Administrative Collegiate Court on June 7, just one day after the Grupo Cemza subsidiaries were granted the 160 million peso contracts by Pemex.

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