Collusion between lawyers and judges in Mexico harms investors in the energy sector

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The former consigliere of President López Obrador is in the crosshairs in Mexico

HOUSTON, TX, USA, March 30, 2022 / -- Mexico Energy Intelligence (MEI), a news agency dedicated to market and policy research, has updated its risk atlas for investors. Its upcoming report assesses the impact on investors in the light of evidence of corruption in Mexico’s judicial system.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 69, was swept into office in 2018 vowing to end corruption in public life and in Pemex. Recent events offer a glimpse into the challenges that the president faces in his own cabinet and in the judicial system.

At the president’s briefing on March 18, reporters raised questions about the reported involvement of Julio Scherer, 53, formerly the head of the Presidential Office of Legal Affairs, regarding schemes of extortion and influence-peddling carried out by a network of law firms and federal judges, as reported by Aristegui Noticias. {]

In one such scheme, a party is asked to surrender its equity in a company or participation in a Pemex contract in favor of others, under threat of bankruptcy and costly litigation.

An example is the attempted take-over of a Pemex contract for the operation of a sour gas compression platform named Agosto 12. From the court filings in Case 666/2016 of the 7th Civil Court of the First Circuit of the Federal Judiciary (Mexico City), the basic facts are documented.

The contract was awarded to a consortium of four Mexican companies in 2013; the unit was built by Coastal Contacts, Bhd., a Malaysian shipyard, in 2015; and it was brought to Mexico and installed the following year.

Soon afterward, according to court documents, the Rivera Gaxiola law firm, which is mentioned the current news cycle, aided by the shipbuilder, and its Mexican fiduciary agent, encouraged Trese to relinquish its participation in the Pemex contract.

In 2019, a federal judge, Alejandro Dzib Sotelo, 67, ruled that the crew of a Houston company would displace that of Trese as operator of the offshore platform.

The new company, however, lacked a tax registration and, according to the Navy [SEMAR], permission to operate in Mexican waters, and, in February 2021, the judge’s rulings were overturned by a higher judicial authority. Meanwhile, by allowing the platform to be operated unofficially, Pemex was exposing itself to legal risks were claims to arise from an environmental incident, according to Mexico’s Safety Regulator (ASEA).

Another judge, Concepción Martín Argumosa, 66, was designated to supervise, on behalf of Trese and its American, Asian and Mexican creditors, the recovery of all funds that had been withheld.

Trese’s experience illustrates some of the anti-corruption challenges that President López faces when members of his cabinet and a network of judges benefit from extortion and influence peddling.

These are highlights of a report to be released May 1st on the irregular change of operatorship arising from collusion between law firms and the courts to the detriment of investors and lenders.

George Baker
Mexico Energy Intelligence
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