“MX” for Borderland Beat
|Mexican steel tycoon Alonso Ancira was imprisoned in Spain for nearly two years. He was extradited to Mexico earlier this year.|
A federal judge suspended the criminal case against Mexican steel executive Alonso Ancira and ordered his immediate release. He worked out a deal with Mexican proseuctions and will have to pay MXN$216 million in damages to have his corruption and money laundering charges dropped.
Ancira was extradited from Spain to Mexico earlier this year to face corruption and money laundering charges after he was implicated in the fraudulent sale-purchase of Agros Nitrogenados, a plant fertilizer firm and subsidiary of Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA).
According to court documents, Ancira sold the firm at an inflated price to Emilio Lozoya, former chief of the state-owned oil company Pemex. Lozoya bought Agro Nitrogenados for US$475 million when the property was only worth US$50 million. This corruption case unfolded during the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012–2018).
Investigators also showed that Pemex did not do a fair bidding process or a competitive analysis to determine if Agro Nitrogenados was the best candidate for Pemex’s new plant fertilizing efforts. Agro Nitrogenados had incomplete, damaged and/or unusable fertilizer equipment; most of the machinery was over 30 years old and had not been used for at least 18 years. This should have eliminated Agro Nitrogenados as an option for Pemex’s plans.
Ancira did not make any statement during his court hearing and appears to be in good health. The judge said that Pemex, the Attorney General’s Office (FGR), and the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) agreed to free Ancira of all charges.
Ancira was born in Mexico City in 1952. He studied law at the University of Anahuac and got an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Incarnate Word and Texas A&M University.
In 1991, he was promoted to Managing Director of AHMSA, and in 1993 he became the President of the National Chamber of Iron and Steel. By 2004, he was appointed as the President of AHMSA and all its subsidiaries. Ancira was at one point the riches person in Coahuila, where he lived, and one of the richest businessmen in Mexico.
In 2004, Ancira and two of his company executives, Xavier Autrey and Juan Carlos Carredano, were charged with tax fraud in Mexico. All of them fled the country after the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) issued arrest warrants for their capture. Ancira moved temporarily to Israel with his family to avoid capture.
Ancira and others claimed the charges were politically driven to force them to pay creditors after a new federal law change. The charges were eventually dropped and Ancira relocated to Coahuila.
While anticorruption investigations spread across Latin America in the 2010s, there were uncovered few cases in Mexico, particularly those involving high-level politicians. When Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in 2018, he pledged to prosecute those he suspected of being involved in corruption. The probe against Ancira and Lozoya is the first high-profile anticorruption case in this current administration.
|Former Pemex chief Emilio Lozoya (pictured, left) with Ancira during a Pemex conference|
In addition to this fraudulent sale-purchase, Mexican investigators discovered that AHMSA paid millions in bribes to the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and one of its subsidiaries. The subsidiary acted as a shell company and part of the bribes were shared with Lozoya.
In a plea bargain, Odebrecht admitted having paid millions in bribes to government officials across Latin America to secure construction projects and gain favor in biddings.
Ancira was arrested in Mallorca, Spain, in May 2019 and imprisoned for his outstanding charges in Mexico. Last November, Ancira tried to stop Spanish authorities from extraditing him, but a local court rejected his motion and he was transferred to Mexico in February 2021.
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