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LATIN AMERICA | 11-10-2018 10:00

Peruvian police arrest Keiko Fujimori in Odebrecht probe

The leader of Popular Force, the biggest party in Congress, Keiko Fujimori was arrested after giving evidence at the public prosecutor's office to a judge investigating alleged party funding from Odebrecht.

Police in Peru have arrested Keiko Fujimori, the opposition leader and daughter of the Alberto Fujimori, the country's disgraced ex-president, for alleged money-laundering involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, her lawyer has said.

The 43-year-old was arrested on the orders of prosecutors investigating contributions to her campaign when she ran for president in 2011, according to her lawyer Giuliana Loza.

"Persecution has been disguised as justice in our country," the politician wrote on Twitter.

Her arrest comes a week after her father Alberto Fujimori's presidential pardon for crimes against humanity was revoked by a top court, which ordered him back to prison.

The leader of Popular Force, the biggest party in Congress, Keiko Fujimori was arrested after giving evidence at the public prosecutor's office to a judge investigating alleged party funding from Odebrecht. Her husband had accompanied her to the hearing in Lima before judge Richard Concepcion Carhuancho.

However, in a shock development, she was arrested and placed in preventive detention for 10 days, said Loza, who described the arrest as "an outrage and an abuse."

Supporters quickly gathered outside the prison facility where she was being held to protest, many waving Popular Force or pro-Keiko banners.

A further 19 people have been arrested in the case linked to contributions to Popular Force during Keiko Fujimori's 2011 presidential campaign.

"She has placed herself at the disposal of the prosecutor's office," said Loza.

Odebrecht probe

Prosecutors have since June been investigating allegations that three former presidents took bribes disguised as campaign funds from Odebrecht, which is at the centre of political scandals across Latin America.

Former presidents Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Alan Garía and Alejandro Toledo all took undeclared campaign contributions in exchange for pledges to have the Brazilian construction giant win local tenders, prosecutors said.

Kuczynski narrowly beat Keiko Fujimori to win the presidency in 2016. However, he was forced to step down earlier this year when impeachment seemed certain after he failed to shake off suspicions over millions of dollars in Odebrecht payments to his companies before he took office.

Prosecutors are also investigating former president Ollanta Humala for allegedly taking US$3 million in bribes from Odebrecht.

The investigation stems from questioning of Jorge Barata, a Brazilian who was a former Odebrecht boss in Peru. He told Brazilian investigators that he doled out millions of dollars to Peruvian presidential candidates between 2001 and 2016.

In the 2011 elections, Odebrecht gave money to four candidates, Barata told prosecutors: US$1.2 million to Keiko Fujimori, US$700,000 to Toledo and US$300,000 to Kuczynski.

Up to her arrest on Wednesday, Keiko Fujimori had not been directly under investigation, as most of the prosecutors' attention was on two of her senior 2011 campaign aides.

The two aides, Jaime Yoshiyama and Augusto Bedoya, were among the 19 others placed under arrest Wednesday.

Barata has previously identified both men as intermediaries. Their homes were raided in March.

He told Peruvian prosecutors who questioned him in São Paulo that – in addition to the money he gave to the two Popular Force officials – he made another contribution of US$200,000 to Keiko through Peru's business confederation CONFIEP.

The Peruvian candidates as well as the business federation all denied receiving Odebrecht contributions.

The prosecutor in charge of the case, Jose Domingo Perez, has said Keiko Fujimori was leading a "criminal organization" inside Popular Force for the purposes of receiving illicit funding.

Bad week for Fujimoris

An extended investigation into the Popular Force leader could leave an expected 2021 run for the presidency in tatters. She has also been unable to resolve a feud with her younger brother Kenji, as both battle for control of their father's political dynasty.

"Another sad and hard moment in a hard week for the family," tweeted Kenji, who leads a rival faction of Keiko's party. "As soon as I heard the news I was next to my mother [Susana Higuchi] and later my father."

"The Fujimori family continues to dominate Peru's political agenda. The Fujimoris have marked Peruvian life for more than two and a half decade, first during the father's presidency and then with the incursion into politics of their children," analyst Fernando Tuesta told AFP.

Meanwhile, her father insists that a return to prison would be a "death sentence." He said in a letter to Peru's President Martín Vizcarra and the Judiciary last week that he is too weak to go back to serve out the rest of a 25=year sentence for crimes against humanity. He is currently being treated for a chronic heart condition at a Lima clinic, where he was taken when given the news that his pardon had been revoked.


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