A former boss of Mexico’s state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos facing corruption charges that could envelop leaders of the last government was taken to a hospital early on Friday shortly after his overnight extradition to Mexico from Spain.
Emilio Lozoya, wanted for alleged bribery and money laundering dating back to his 2012-2016 tenure in charge of the firm, known as Pemex, entered the hospital soon after his arrival. He faces an initial court hearing later on Friday.
Lozoya, who landed in a plane at Mexico City airport shortly before 1am local time (06:00 GMT), denies wrongdoing.
Once a rising star of Mexican politics, Lozoya has become a key witness in President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s drive to expose fraud in and around the government he took over from his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, in December 2018.
Lopez Obrador said Lozoya’s trial would help shed light on and stigmatise acts of corruption in Mexico.
“It’s really important so we can keep cleaning up corruption in the country, so these embarrassing acts are not repeated,” the president told a regular news conference on Friday.
Under Mexican law, Lozoya must make an initial statement to a judge. Lopez Obrador said court proceedings would begin at midday, without giving more details.
Lopez Obrador said he did not have information on Lozoya’s health after the attorney general’s office reported a medical exam found the 45-year-old had developed anaemia and oesophagus problems, and was in a generally “weak” state.
A private doctor requested by Lozoya’s family found the same symptoms, the office added. Earlier, it said judges have yet to announce when the first court hearings will take place.
Before Lozoya’s medical review, a Mexican official said the first court hearing was expected on Friday.
After landing, the aircraft that transported Lozoya remained in a hangar of the attorney general’s office for more than two hours, television footage showed, as journalists waited to capture the first images of Lozoya back on Mexican soil.
A few hours later, a convoy of four-wheel drives departed the hangar and took Lozoya to the Reclusorio Norte prison, where he was met by a crowd of reporters.
Wearing a black face mask, baseball cap, and flak vest, Lozoya kept his head bowed in the back seat of a four-wheel drive.
Scion of a political family and former luminary of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Lozoya has agreed to give information on alleged acts of corruption under the government of Pena Nieto, according to Lopez Obrador.
That prospect has fed expectations that Lozoya may make damaging revelations about former colleagues and politicians to reduce any possible sentence. Pena Nieto denies wrongdoing.
Prosecutors say Lozoya solicited and obtained funds from Brazilian firm Odebrecht for Pena Nieto’s 2012 presidential campaign. Pena Nieto won, defeating Lopez Obrador.
It's really important so we can keep cleaning up corruption in the country.
In exchange, they contend, Lozoya awarded contracts to the firm as boss of Pemex and also took money for contracts from Mexican steelmaker Altos Hornos de Mexico.
Prosecutors allege that while at Pemex, Lozoya spent some $450m renovating and acquiring an out-of-service fertiliser plant from Altos Hornos de Mexico.
Odebrecht has admitted paying bribes in Mexico. The bosses of Altos Hornos de Mexico have denied wrongdoing.
Lawyers for Lozoya have said he acted under the orders of Pena Nieto.
Lopez Obrador has shied away from pointing the finger directly at Pena Nieto.
But the leftist leader has suggested Pena Nieto’s landmark 2013-2014 liberalisation of the energy market, which Lopez Obrador strongly opposed, was tainted by corruption.