A Mexican judge on Wednesday ordered a former oil executive and key figure in a corruption scandal linked to Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht to be held in preventive detention in prison.


Emilio Lozoya, who ran state oil giant Pemex from 2012-2016 and was once an advisor to former president Enrique Pena Nieto, was extradited by Spain in July 2020.

He had avoided going to prison while on trial after agreeing with prosecutors to cooperate as a witness in the Odebrecht case.

According to prosecutors, Lozoya has alleged that multimillion-dollar bribes from the Brazilian firm were channeled into the presidential campaign that brought Pena Nieto to power in 2012.

Lozoya's explosive claims shook Mexico's political elite and led President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to call for his predecessor to testify about the allegations.

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In a statement to prosecutors leaked to the media in August 2020, Lozoya said he was ordered by Pena Nieto and his campaign coordinator Luis Videgaray, a former finance minister, to handle the bribes.

The attorney general's office argued during Wednesday's hearing that Lozoya had not met the criteria of a cooperating witness and represented a flight risk.

He will be detained in a prison in Mexico City, defense lawyer Manuel Ontiveros told the media.

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Lozoya, 46, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of charges including bribery, criminal association and the use of resources of illicit origin.

So far he is the highest-ranking Mexican official charged in the Odebrecht scandal, which has extended to several Latin American countries.