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Arrest warrant for ex-Pemex CEO in Odebrecht graft case

Former Pemex chief Emilio Lozoya, shown in this August 17, 2017 photo, is accused of taking bribes from Odebrecht starting from when he was a top aide to Enrique Pena Nieto's presidential campaign
Former Pemex chief Emilio Lozoya, shown in this August 17, 2017 photo, is accused of taking bribes from Odebrecht starting from when he was a top aide to Enrique Pena Nieto's presidential campaign AFP/File
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Mexico City (AFP)

Mexican prosecutors said Friday they have obtained an arrest warrant for the former chief executive of state oil company Pemex on corruption charges linked to the massive scandal involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

Emilio Lozoya, Pemex chief from 2012 to 2016 and a top adviser to former president Enrique Pena Nieto, is wanted in the case, along with his wife, sister and mother, the national prosecutor's office said.

"An Interpol Red Notice has been issued for all these individuals in relation to likely crimes committed in the (Odebrecht) case and involving Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex)," it said in a statement.

It added that the investigation into the Mexican strand of the Odebrecht case had been "reprehensibly frozen for a very long time."

Odebrecht, the largest construction firm in Latin America, has admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to win juicy contracts in 12 countries, including Mexico.

The scandal has felled ex-presidents and top officials in countries including Brazil, Peru and Colombia, but there have been no arrests or prosecutions so far in Mexico.

Leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took over from Pena Nieto (2012-2018) in December, looks set to change that.

Lozoya allegedly took more than $10 million in bribes from Odebrecht starting in March 2012, when he was chief international strategist for then-candidate Pena Nieto's presidential campaign.

Part of the money was allegedly filtered to the campaign's coffers.

Lozoya is also wanted in another corruption case, on money laundering charges linked to the allegedly dodgy sale of a defunct fertilizer company to Pemex for nearly half a billion dollars in 2014.

He denies the accusations against him in both cases, and says he is the victim of "media persecution."

His whereabouts are unclear, but his lawyer, who confirmed the new arrest warrant, maintains Lozoya is in Mexico.

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