By Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2020

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico’s former treasury and foreign relations secretary, Luis Videgaray, angrily denied accusations Tuesday by a lawyer for another former Cabinet secretary who claimed he used embezzled government money to help finance election campaigns.

The accusations by a lawyer for ex-social development secretary Rosario Robles mark the second time that former top officials have lodged such accusations against Videgaray. A former head of the state-owned oil company, Emilio Lozoya, made similar accusations earlier this year.

All three - Robles, Videgaray and Lozoya - worked in the 2012-2018 administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Videgaray, currently a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, is considered the political figure closest to Peña Nieto.

He called the accusations “completely false.”

“The mechanism of ‘I will save myself by blaming Videgaray’ has a limit, and that limit is truth and justice,” Videgaray wrote in a statement.

Both Lozoya and Robles have reportedly offered to turn state’s evidence and implicate Videgaray in return for favorable treatment for themselves.

Robles wrote in her Twitter account Tuesday that “statements have been made that have not been agreed on with me. I have instructed my lawyers to limit themselves to the legal proceedings,” but she did confirm she had decided to be a cooperating witness.

Videgaray wrote that strategy “is immoral and wrong, and does nothing to contribute to the fight against corruption led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”

López Obrador made the crusade against corruption the centerpiece of his administration upon taking office in December 2018. He has, however, said he is not personally eager to go after former presidents and has proposed submitting the question to voters in a referendum.

In 2019, a judge ordered Robles to be held in jail pending trial on corruption charges. She is accused of “wrongful exercise of public service” related to the alleged diversion of up to $260 million in public funds.

Robles held multiple posts in Peña Nieto’s administration. The accusations against Videgaray date to June 2014 when Robles was social development secretary. Prosecutors say she was aware of the diversion of funds but never denounced it.

Robles has denied wrongdoing.

Lozoya was extradited from Spain earlier this year to face money laundering charges and immediately began cooperating with authorities. Videgaray previously denied accusations by Lozoya that he engaged in bribery or illegal campaign financing.

Lozoya accused Peña Nieto and Videgaray of using bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to help win the presidency and then to pass the energy sector overhaul that could greatly benefit that company and others. To that end, some opposition lawmakers were bribed for their votes, he alleges.

In a statement in August, Videgaray called the accusations false, adding that “moreover, they are absurd, inconsistent and reckless.”

The accusations Tuesday involved elections in 2012, 2015 and 2018. Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party denied there had been any illicit financing in those races and said mandatory electoral audits had confirmed that.

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