Mexican prosecutors accuse ex-president of directing graft - newspaper

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FILE PHOTO: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office as Mexican president
FILE PHOTO: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office as Mexican president

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Ex-Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto ordered aides to bribe lawmakers to enact reforms in the benefit of foreign firms, according to a document from the attorney general's office published Thursday by daily newspaper Reforma.

The document, a request for an arrest warrant for an especially powerful former minister in Pena Nieto's 2012-2018 administration, describes the former president as running "a state within a state" that employed "its own system of criminal power" centered on distributing bribes from scandal-plagued Brazilian builder Odebrecht.

The arrest warrant request for Luis Videgaray describes more than 121 million pesos ($6 million) in bribe payments allegedly distributed to key members of Congress to ensure passage of a sweeping energy opening to private companies, according to the newspaper.

Reforma reported it had access to the document, which concludes that Videgaray was following the then-president's orders, but added that an unnamed judge had not yet ruled on the document's legality.

The document does not request a warrant for Pena Nieto.

Reuters was not immediately able to independently confirm the authenticity of the document. Last month, Lopez Obrador confirmed that a request for a warrant for Videgaray had been made, but said it had apparently been rejected by a judge.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has made rooting out corruption a top priority, and has signaled his support for a referendum next year that would allow ex-presidents to stand trial.

Critics of Lopez Obrador, who lost a previous run for president to Pena Nieto in 2012, accuse him seeking to profit politically from attacking his predecessor's embrace of the energy reform that ended state-owned oil company Pemex's decades-long monopoly.

Lopez Obrador is a fierce critic of the reform.

Former Odebrecht executives have testified about bribes made to Emilio Lozoya, the former Pemex chief under Pena Nieto. Lozoya has given testimony against Videgaray and Pena Nieto in a plea deal.

Videgaray served stints as finance and foreign minister.

Reuters could not immediately reach a representative of Pena Nieto for comment. He has in the past denied wrongdoing. Neither the attorney general's office or Videgaray immediately responded to requests for comment.

Videgaray has previously denied wrongdoing in the case.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by David Gregorio)