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LATIN AMERICA | 10-04-2019 17:14

Peru's former president Kuczynski detained in Odebrecht probe

PPK quit the presidency just over a year ago, amid allegations he lied to Congress over his firm’s dealings with Odebrecht when he was finance minister during the government of Alejandro Toledo.

A Peruvian court has ordered the detention of former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski for 10 days as part of a vast graft probe centred on Odebrecht SA, the troubled Brazilian construction giant.

Kuczynski was escorted by police from his home in Lima’s San Isidro district Wednesday after the court ordered that he be detained along with two former employees. He was taken into a clinic in downtown Lima to undergo medical checks, according to a video posted on Twitter by the attorney general’s office.

Kuczynski, an 80-year-old Wall Street veteran, quit the presidency less than 13 months ago amid allegations he lied to Congress over his firm’s dealings with Odebrecht when he was finance minister during the government of Alejandro Toledo.

Probes into campaign donations and bribes paid by the Brazilian company have embroiled Peru’s past four presidents and stalled major infrastructure projects, slowing its economy. Ollanta Humala and Alan García have been barred from leaving the country while the government is seeking Toledo’s extradition from the United States.

‘Never fled’

Kuczynski called the court order arbitrary. “I cooperated with absolutely all the investigations. I never fled from the law,” he said via Twitter. “It’s a very difficult moment for me, but I’ll face it with the composure of someone who only dreamed of having a better country.”

His lawyer, Nelson Miranda, said the court’s decision will be appealed, according to Canal N.

Within days of leaving the presidency in March 2018, prosecutors raided two of Kuczynski’s homes in Lima and a court later froze his accounts and barred him from leaving the country. He gave testimony on seven occasions, his lawyer said.

“Sending an ex-president to jail without any justification is an abuse,” Congressman Juan Sheput, a lawmaker with Kuczynski’s Contigo party, said in a text message. “He was cooperating fully with the investigation, he stayed out of politics and had no social life. It’s a judicial barbarism.”

Greasing a continent

Odebrecht has admitted to bribing government officials across Latin America to win contracts and in 2016 agreed to pay the largest corruption penalty ever levied by global authorities.

The investigation, dubbed Operation 'Lava Jato' ("Carwash"), started in Brazil and has also ensnared members of the business and political elite in that nation, the region’s biggest economy. Michel Temer last month became the second former Brazilian president to be arrested as part of Carwash.

Keiko Fujimori, whom Kuczynski defeated to become Peru’s chief executive in 2016, was detained for about a week in October as part of a probe into campaign donations from Odebrecht. She was later ordered to prison for as long as three years while prosecutors consider charging her.

On Wednesday, Vice-President Mercedes Araoz said she viewed Kuczynski’s detention as excessive.

- BLOOMBERG 

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