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Mexico Probing Alleged Corruption by Pemex Execs

January 21, 2002|From Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's organized crime division is investigating charges of money laundering and the embezzlement of more than $11 million by a contingent of current and former officials at the state-run oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

Accounting and Administrative Development Secretary Francisco Barrio Terrazas said at a Saturday night news conference that investigators had frozen the bank accounts of nine current and former Pemex executives and an account controlled by the company's oil workers union.

Barrio Terrazas said prosecutors believe officials including former Pemex director Rogelio Montemayor may have illegally transferred more than $11 million in Pemex operating funds into the union's bank account.

With that account full of money that couldn't be traced by Pemex accounts, current and former executives raided the union fund, pocketing millions of dollars and making large cash payments to influential friends, Barrio Terrazas said.

"We are looking into several aspects of the Pemex case," he said. "There is one aspect of the case that effectively deals with improper payments from the corporation to its union."

Carlos Romero Deschamps, a sitting senator who heads the company's union, and Ricardo Aldana Prieto, another Pemex union boss and lawmaker, are among those being investigated, Terrazas said.

Both Romero Deschamps and Aldana Prieto are members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has a majority in Congress and held Mexico's presidency for 71 years until Vicente Fox took office in December 2000.

Barrio Terrazas, who made the announcement at the Mexico City headquarters of Fox's Revolutionary Democracy Party, said the Pemex investigation aimed to punish the company's "fat fish," or bureaucrats who made a fortune pilfering money from Mexico's taxpayers.

Pemex director Raul Munoz Leos presented his company's annual fiscal report at a formal ceremony Sunday but refused to comment on Barrio Terrazas' announcement.

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