Ex-chief of Pemex imprisoned in Spain accepts extradition to Mexico

“MX” for Borderland Beat

Pemex ex-chief Emilio Lozoya Austin is accused of accepting millions in bribes
Emilio Lozoya Austin, the former chief of Mexico’s state oil company Pemex, has agreed to stop his extradition fight and cooperate with authorities to return to Mexico. Lozoya was arrested in February in Malaga, Spain, after Mexican authorities issued an international arrest warrant through the Interpol.
He is wanted on money laundering and bribery charges in Mexico following an investigation that showed he was received millions of dollars in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and for his alleged participation in the illegal sale-purchase of the Mexican fertilizer firm Agros Nitrogenados.
When the arrest warrants leaked, Lozoya fled Mexico. He remained a fugitive for eight months until he was captured in Spain. Lozoya said he would return to Mexico once his travel arrangements are scheduled.
Early life and career
Emilio Lozoya Austin was born in Chihuahua on 9 December 1974. After graduating from the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) with degrees in Economics and Law, Lozoya went on to study public administration in Harvard University. Upon his return, he worked as a credit analyst for the Bank of Mexico, the country’s central bank. 
Lozoya was a close political ally of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (right) 
Lozoya ran Pemex from 2012 to 2016 and was one of closest political allies of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. During his tenure in Pemex, he was awarded “Petroleum Executive of the Year” for playing a key role in Peña Nieto’s historic energy reform, which poised to open up Mexico’s oil sector to international investment. This corporation transformation had not been done since the Mexican oil sector was nationalized over 75 years ago.

Corruption case
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