MEXICO CITY — Mexico's president confirmed Tuesday that federal prosecutors had tried to get an arrest warrant for former Treasury and Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray, but said a judge rejected the request.
Videgaray, currently a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, is considered the political figure closest to former President Enrique Peña Nieto, in whose 2012-2018 administration he served.
Videgaray has denied accusations by the former head of the state-owned oil company that he engaged in bribery or illegal campaign financing. In a statement in August, Videgaray wrote that the accusations "are false. Moreover, they are absurd, inconsistent and reckless."
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday he did not know what the charges were because he maintains an arms-length relationship with the independent attorney general's office, though he said he had read they included a charge of treason. López Obrador said he didn't know whether the judge had permanently rejected the warrant, or returned to it to prosecutors asking for more evidence or corrections.
"It was rejected because the judge determined it was not adequately drawn up or properly based in evidence ... I do not know if it was definitively rejected, or for corrections," López Obrador said.
The Attorney General's Office said later in a statement that it had not been notified of any rejection by the judge, and added that in any case the Mexican legal system would not allow it to comment on pending cases.
The charges appear related to a formal legal complaint filed by Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Mexico's state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos. Lozoya alleged that Peña Nieto and Videgaray — then his treasury secretary — directed him to bribe lawmakers, including five senators, to support controversial energy and other structural reforms.
After months on the run, Lozoya was arrested in Spain in February and extradited to Mexico in July after agreeing to cooperate with investigators. He faces corruption charges related to Pemex's overvalued purchase of a fertilizer plant and to millions in dollars of bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.
In addition to the alleged bribes for lawmakers, Lozoya has told prosecutors that Peña Nieto and Videgaray told him to use $4 million from Odebrecht to pay foreign campaign consultants for work on Peña Nieto's 2012 election campaign. That campaign put his Institutional Revolutionary Party back in power after 12 years in the opposition.
Peña Nieto, who is reported to live abroad, has not spoken publicly since the allegations surfaced.