Mexico launches probe of former president Peña Nieto: report 

Mexico launches probe of former president Peña Nieto: report 
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The Mexican government is launching an investigation into corruption under former President Enrique Peña Nieto, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The investigation is part of a larger probe against the actions of Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Mexico’s state-run oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. 

Lozoya is accused of receiving $9 million to secure Pemex contracts with foreign and domestic steelmakers both while he was a top campaign official in Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential campaign and while he was chief of Pemex. Lozoya was arrested in Spain last week and is awaiting a court ruling on his extradition. 

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“The attorney general’s office has evidence that the corruption of Lozoya in Agronitrogenados and Odebrecht reaches to the highest level,” a senior law enforcement official told the Journal, referring to Peña Nieto. “The extradition and [any possible] confession of Lozoya are elements that together with ongoing investigations will decide if the former president is charged in the future.”

The investigation into Lozoya began in 2017, but no charges were issued and Peña Nieto left office the following year. If Peña Nieto is criminally prosecuted, he would be the first Mexican president to face criminal corruption charges. 

Lozoya’s attorney, Javier Coello Trejo, told a Mexican television station that his client “didn’t act on his own."

Peña Nieto, who served as president of Mexico from 2012 to 2018, defeated current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the 2012 election. Though Peña Nieto’s administration was defined by accusations of corruption and record-low approval ratings, López Obrador has said he doesn’t wish to prosecute his predecessor unless the Mexican electorate votes on a referendum to prosecute Mexican presidents who’ve held office since the 1990s. 

“My position is that the president should not be persecuted,” he told reporters, according to the Journal.

However, the official who spoke to the Journal said potential charges would move forward whether or not the president is on board.

“The Attorney General’s Office would bring any case against former presidents as an exercise of autonomy, not President López Obrador as a result of his consultations," the official said. "They are two worlds: the political and the judicial.”