Mexico issues arrest warrants for ex-Pemex CEO Lozoya, family members

FILE PHOTO - Emilio Lozoya, former chief Executive Officer of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) attends a news conference at a hotel after he leaves Mexico's attorney general's office, in Mexico City, Mexico August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s attorney general’s office said on Friday that a judge issued arrest warrants for the former chief executive of state oil firm Pemex, Emilio Lozoya, three of his family members and one other person, in a graft case involving Brazilian builder Odebrecht.

The Finance Ministry said in May that it presented the attorney general’s office with three charges against Lozoya related to “acts of corruption” committed when he was at the helm of Pemex from 2012 to 2016.

Although the case was opened in January 2017 “the legal proceedings themselves did not start for years. Today we have obtained the arrest warrants that will now likely bring those involved to justice,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement on Friday.

The office said Interpol issued a red notice for all five people. Interpol describes a red notice as a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

The arrest warrants are for Lozoya, his wife Marielle Eckes, his sister Gilda Lozoya, his mother Gilda Austin, and Nelly Aguilera, a real estate tycoon, a government source told Reuters.

Lozoya has defended his innocence, arguing that a “media persecution” has been launched against him and his family. His lawyer has said he is in Mexico and will appear in court under “the right conditions.”

Alonso Ancira, the chairman of steelmaker Altos Hornos de Mexico AHMSA.MX, which sold an out-of-service fertilizer plant to Pemex for about $475 million while Lozoya was CEO, was detained in Spain by Interpol in May for his alleged involvement in "a series of crimes that gravely hurt" Pemex, the attorney general has said. Ancira was later released on bail.

The investigation into Lozoya is focused on money transfers that AHMSA made to a shell company allegedly set up by Odebrecht to pay bribes. That shell firm in turn allegedly sent the funds to Lozoya and his relatives.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Diego Ore; Writing by Rebekah F Ward and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott