“MX” for Borderland Beat
|Pemex ex-chief Emilio Lozoya Austin is accused of accepting millions in bribes|
In 2013, Lozoya was reportedly involved in the fraudulent sale-purchase of Agros Nitrogenados, a plant fertilizer firm and subsidiary of Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA) in Veracruz. According to court documents, Lozoya agreed to purchase Agros Nitrogenados on an inflated price. Investigators also showed that Pemex did not do a fair bidding process or a competitive analysis to determine if Agro Nitrogenados was the best candidate for Pemex’s new plant fertilizing efforts.
Agro Nitrogenados had incomplete, damaged and/or unusable fertilizer equipment; most of the machinery was over 30 years old and had not been used for at least 18 years. This in itself should have eliminated Agro Nitrogenados as an option for Pemex’s plans. Lozoya bought Agro Nitrogenados for US$275 million.
|Spanish officials take Lozoya into custody|
In 2014, AHMSA paid millions in bribes to Odebrecht and one of its subsidiaries. The subsidiary acted as a shell company and part of the bribes were shared with Lozoya.
Authorities say that Lozoya allegedly accepted over US$10 million in bribes to allow Odebrecht to work on a Pemex refinery in the state of Hidalgo. Odebrecht later admitted to bribing over US$800 million to officials and businessmen across the Americas to secure lucrative contracts.
Lozoya has denied all the criminal accusations against him. His wife Marielle Helene Eckes is currently a fugitive and has her bank accounts frozen in Mexico. Investigators believe she may be hiding in Germany. Lozoya’s sister Gilda Susana Lozoya Austin is also wanted.
Manhunt and arrest
In May 2019, Mexico issued an arrest warrant through the Interpol to capture Lozoya. They also issued arrest warrants to several of his relatives and business associates, and froze their bank accounts in Mexico.
|Lozoya (middle) with his wife Marielle Hele Eckes (left) and his mother Gilda Margarita Austin y Solis (right)|
Later that month, Spanish authorities arrested Alonso Ancira Elizondo, head of AHMSA and previous owner of Agros Nitrogenados, in Mallorca. On July 2019, Lozoya’s mother Gilda Margarita Austin y Solís was arrested in Germany for her connection to the case. Lozoya, however, remained a fugitive for nearly eight months.
He was finally arrested in an upscale neighborhood in Malaga on February 2020. His arrest was described by the international press as a “high-profile win” in Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s fight against corruption.
Sources: LMT Online; Milenio; Infobae; Silla Rota; Mexico Daily News; NYT