World / Crime & Legal

Peru police arrest Keiko Fujimori for alleged money laundering amid Odebrecht probe

AFP-JIJI

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

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

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

Her husband has 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.”

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.

Her arrest comes a week after her 80-year-old father’s presidential pardon for crimes against humanity was revoked by a top court, which ordered him back to prison.

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

Former Presidents Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Alan Garcia 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 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 $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: $1.2 million to Keiko Fujimori, $700,000 to Toledo and $300,000 to Kuczynski.

Up to her shock 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 Sao Paulo that — in addition to the money he gave to the two Popular Force officials — he made another contribution of $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.

An extended investigation into the Popular Force leader could leave an expected 2021 run for the presidency in tatters.

Meanwhile, her father insists that a return to prison would be a “death sentence.”

He said in a letter to Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra and the South American country’s 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.