Ex-Pemex CEO called before prosecutors over alleged Odebrecht bribes

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s attorney general’s office has called a close former aide of President Enrique Pena Nieto to respond to accusations he was involved in Brazilian builder Odebrecht’s corruption scandal, a lawyer for the aide said.

FILE PHOTO: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto delivers his speech to supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) during their national assembly ahead of the 2018 election at Mexico City’s Palacio de los Deportes, Mexico August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reported this weekend on documents alleging that Emilio Lozoya, who also formerly headed state oil company Pemex, received $10 million in bribes from a former Odebrecht executive from 2012 in return for a contract at Mexico’s Tula refinery.

Lozoya has denied the reports, which say he took money from Odebrecht while he was a campaign manager ahead of Pena Nieto’s 2012 election victory and later as CEO of Pemex.

He is cooperating with authorities and will appear at the attorney general’s office on Thursday, his lawyer, Javier Trejo, told Reuters.

“One must respect the authorities. We will go with Mr. Lozoya, we will confront whatever,” Trejo said. “They must show us that Mr. Lozoya received money.”

The summons, Trejo added, shows Lozoya is a suspect in the investigation.

Mexico’s president’s office denied any bribes by Odebrecht were funneled into Pena Nieto’s 2012 campaign.

“It is absurd, irresponsible and in bad faith to link the campaign of President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012 with the investigations that are carried out today in the Odebrecht case,” the president’s office said in a statement.

It said Mexican electoral authorities had supervised spending in the campaign and had not found anything illegal.

Odebrecht has admitted to U.S. and Brazilian prosecutors that it paid $10.5 million in bribes in Mexico, but details have not been made public.

Corruption scandals have hounded Pena Nieto’s government, playing into the hands of leftist opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is preparing a third run for office next year.

Lawmakers from Lopez Obrador’s Morena party on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Mexican attorney general’s office (PGR), demanding an investigation of Lozoya, who ran Pemex from late 2012 to 2016.

Lozoya called the allegations “absolutely false” in a Twitter post on Sunday.

Since settling cases in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland for a record $3.5 billion, Odebrecht has sought to negotiate leniency deals that would allow it to keep operating across Latin America.

Odebrecht admitted in the settlement with U.S. and Brazilian prosecutors to paying bribes across 12 countries to win contracts, including Mexico.

The PGR said in a statement on Sunday that Mexico had not accepted a settlement offer by Odebrecht.

Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Roberto Ramirez; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by David Gregorio