Mexico graft case: Ferrari for the president, bags of cash

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The alleged examples of kickbacks, bribes and graft contained in leaked accusations by a former Mexican official contain some of the oddest, most banal and most colorful instances of corruption seen in a while, ranging from a flashy sports car to a request for payment of school fees. The ex-head of Mexico’s state oil company, Emilio Lozoya, said some opposition legislators demanded about $50 million in bribes to vote for an oil privatization reform. Here are some examples:

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GRAFT ON WHEELS: In 2015, one of Mexico’s most openly corrupt governors, Javier Duarte — currently in prison — purportedly approached then President Enrique Peña Nieto and gave him a mysterious folder. Once aboard the presidential jet, Peña Nieto opened the folder and found it contained a photo of a vintage Ferrari — Duarte claimed it once belonged to a former president — and the keys to the car. According to Lozoya, the Ferrari, along with sacks full of cash, wound up being stored in the warehouse of a secretive building that Peña Nieto once intended to use as the “presidential museum” devoted to his administration. Perhaps appropriately, the building was built by a contractor accused by Lozoya of paying kickbacks but never opened. Peña Nieto has not commented publicly on the allegations, but others implicated have issued strong denials.

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SHADES OF WATERGATE: In the 1970s, a source known as “Deep Throat” met Washington Post reporters in a Washington parking garage. According to Lozoya, in August 2014 the head of his secret service bodyguards went to the basement parking garage of Mexico’s lower house of Congress and delivered 6.8 million pesos ($520,000 at the time) to an aide of opposition politician Ricardo Anaya. The problem, as Anaya pointed out, is that he had left his post in congress five months before and would presumably no longer have access to the parking garage, or a reason to be bribed.

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ANGRY DEMANDS FOR MONEY: Lozoya claims some opposition senators were outspoken, angry and even “extortionate” in their demands for bribes in exchange for passing an energy privatization bill. He said one former senator got drunk at an energy conference in Houston, Texas, approached Lozoya and tossed down a Mexican flag, shouting, “This is a betrayal because they didn’t follow through with the agreed to amount.”

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SUITCASES FULL OF CASH: Between 2013 and 2014, Lozoya claims he arranged for a group of opposition lawmakers to receive some 80 million pesos. The drops were arranged via messages on disposable cellphones. The person designated to receive the funds would bring a roller suitcase to haul the bags of bills away. A video leaked this week showed aides at a Senate office carefully arranging stacks of cash into one such wheelie-bag.

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SMALL-TIME GRAFT: Lozoya said bribes were delivered to lawmakers in cash in transparent bank bags “so they could see the amount of bills.” The bribes were often delivered in large stacks of small-denomination bills of as little as 200 pesos ($15). According to Lozoya, one left-center lawmaker had a particularly petty demand: He wanted his brother — who worked for the state oil company that Lozoya headed — transferred to a job at the company’s central offices. It was done, though the brother’s experience was mainly working in the field. One journalist allegedly received a $4,000 or $5,000 designer handbag, but then asked for her child’s school fees to be paid, too.

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