February 13, 2020 / 1:50 PM / 14 days ago

Spain orders detention of ex-head of Mexico oil firm pending extradition request

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s High Court on Thursday ordered Emilio Lozoya, former chief executive of Mexican state oil firm Pemex, to be held in a Spanish jail pending an extradition request from Mexico where he faces corruption charges.

Former chief executive of Mexico's state oil firm Pemex, Emilio Lozoya, is escorted by Spanish police officers as he leaves a court after appeared in Spain's High Court via video conference, after his detention in southern Spain on Wednesday, in Marbella, Spain, February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Lozoya appeared in court after being arrested in Malaga, southern Spain, on Wednesday.

He is alleged to have participated in a wide-ranging bribery and money laundering case in Mexico involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA for which he could face up to 15 years in prison.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

His arrest has given Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador his first high-profile win in his government’s anti-corruption drive.

Spanish Judge Ismael Moreno described Lozoya as a flight risk and ordered his detention, noting in a statement that he was picked up with a fake driving license and had no legal residency in Spain, suggesting an intention to “evade justice.”

Mexico has 45 days to present Spain with a formal extradition request, the court said.

Lozoya attended a court in Marbella on Thursday with a video link to the High Court in Madrid.

In Mexico, Lopez Obrador said after the Spanish High Court’s ruling that his government must not let up in its fight against corruption.

A leftist who won power on an anti-graft platform, Lopez Obrador has sought to paint former administration officials as members of a corrupt elite since taking office in December 2018.

Lozoya’s lawyer, Javier Coello, said on Wednesday that his client had yet to decide whether to fight extradition from Spain or return voluntarily to Mexico.

“It’s his personal decision. We have all the evidence necessary to defend him,” Coello told Mexican TV station Milenio.

Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez and Emma Pinedo in Madrid, and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Susan Fenton

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