HomeNewsMexico’s Unreachable Elites Targeted by Rare Corruption Investigation
NEWS

Mexico's Unreachable Elites Targeted by Rare Corruption Investigation

ELITES AND CRIME / 26 MAY 2021 BY VICTORIA DITTMAR EN

A new corruption inquiry offers a unique chance for Mexico to confront long-rumored bribery between those at the highest levels of government and international companies.

On May 24, Animal Político revealed the Attorney General’s Office accused a number of politicians, including former President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), of forming a criminal ring between 2013 and 2014.

The network allegedly funneled 100 million Mexican pesos (about $5 million) in bribes to various senators in exchange for support for Peña Nieto's landmark energy reform, one of his signature legislative achievements. Brazilian construction company Odebrecht provided the bribe funds, according to documents presented by prosecutors at a closed-door judicial hearing and seen by Animal Político.

The list of politicians being accused includes some of Mexico's most influential figures. Besides Peña Nieto, authorities also named former Finance Minister Luis Videgaray, former presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya and current Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca – who is also under investigation for links to organized crime.

SEE ALSO: How Odebrecht Profited From Corrupting LatAm Political Elites

The documents obtained by Animal Político contend that Peña Nieto ordered Videgaray to have then-Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) director Emilio Lozoya funnel money from Odebrecht to the group of legislators. Odebrecht reportedly made the transactions to phantom companies, from which cash was subsequently collected and handed over to lawmakers.

Lozoya was arrested in February 2020 and told prosecutors last August that Peña Nieto and Videgaray had also used Odebrecht bribes to finance the 2012 re-election campaign.

According to Animal Político, the Attorney General's Office collected statements from Lozoya, Odebrecht executives and four other people who participated in, or were aware of, the alleged bribery scheme.

Since 2014, investigations have uncovered how Odebrecht systematically bribed political leaders, including presidents, across Latin America to win public works contracts.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Peña Nieto's name has long been mentioned in connection to the Odebrecht scandal, having the Attorney General's Office accuse him directly of corruption is a significant escalation, marking a rare case where legal actions have targeted the highest echelons of political power in Mexico.

These accusations are part of a broader investigation into corruption and money laundering related to Odebrecht in Mexico. Until now, the main target of these inquiries had been Lozoya, the former Pemex boss who Odebrecht executives accused of receiving $10 million in bribes to secure contracts with Mexico's national oil company.

After his arrest, Lozoya agreed to collaborate with authorities and provide evidence of how various corruption schemes were organized, including the alleged illicit financing of Peña Nieto's 2012 campaign. His cooperation was seen as key to the Odebrecht investigation in Mexico finally taking off.

After the Odebrecht scandal first broke internationally in 2016 when Peña Nieto was still in power, judicial efforts in Mexico remained stagnant compared to other Latin American countries.

SEE ALSO: Is AMLO Getting Serious About Mexico’s Anti-Corruption Fight?

The Attorney General's Office's investigation could yet affect other presidents. Lozoya’s testimony has led prosecutors to investigate the bank accounts of former presidents Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Carlos Salinas (1988-1994), as well as other high-ranking officials from the Peña Nieto administration, according to El Universal. But so far, they have not been formally linked to the investigation or charged with any crime.

The only politician arrested in connection with this case so far is Jorge Luis Lavalle, a former senator detained in April 2021 on suspicion of having been part of Lozoya's bribery scheme. It remains to be seen if other senior officials will also be brought down.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COSTA RICA / 2 SEP 2020

Raids across Costa Rica have exposed a web of front companies filtering illegally mined gold to the United States, in…

EL CHAPO / 17 JUL 2015

Skepticism has emerged about the official story regarding the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from the country’s most…

MEXICO / 11 JUL 2013

The United States freed and deported around 20 Mexican criminals who went on to murder at least 12 people, illustrating…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…

THE ORGANIZATION

Exploring Climate Change and Organized Crime

10 SEP 2021

In July, InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley moderated a panel for the Climate Reality Project's regional series of workshops for young climate activists in the Americas. The week-long event…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gearing Up a New Class of Interns

3 SEP 2021

InSight Crime is readying its newest class of interns – from universities in Europe and the Americas – to begin investigative work on a number of high-impact projects. For the…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Environmental Crime in the Amazon

27 AUG 2021

Next week, InSight Crime launches an investigation – conducted with Brazilian think-tank the Igarapé Institute – on the sophisticated organized crime structures and armed groups that…