Peru to seek arrest of ex-President Toledo in Odebrecht probe

Peru to seek arrest of ex-President Toledo in Odebrecht probe

Brazil Peru Economy & Policy Project & Infrastructure Finance

Authorities in Peru plan to seek the arrest of former President Alejandro Toledo in connection with an investigation into millions of dollars in bribes paid by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to win public works contracts in the country.

Peru’s Attorney General Pablo Sanchez said on Tuesday that he will formally request Toledo’s detention on charges of influence trafficking and laundering of assets. The former president is under investigation on suspicion that he received $20m in bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for awarding the company a major highway contract when he was in office, according to prosecutors.

Odebrecht admitted in December to paying $800m in bribes to secure contracts throughout Latin America, reaching a plea agreement with the US Department of Justice in the largest anti-corruption settlement in history. The company’s admission has set off a wave of judicial investigations in the region, including Peru, where the company was involved in some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects.

Toledo, who was president from 2001 to 2006, has denied any wrongdoing. He is currently in Paris.

Peruvian prosecutors raided Toledo’s home in Peru on Saturday and searched the property for more than five hours. The search, according to local media reports, came after authorities said they had discovered more than $10m that was allegedly transferred to a bank accounting belonging to a close associate of Toledo, Josef Maiman.

Maiman and Odebrecht’s former Peru country manager, Jorge Barata, are also under investigation, prosecutors have said.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who served as finance minister and prime minister under Toledo, has said he was not aware of Odebrecht’s kickback schemes. "If all of this is true, it’s shameful and shows a lack of respect for our colleagues who worked so hard to make a good government," Kuczynski said in a statement over the weekend, referring to the allegations against Toledo. 

Kuczynski is the subject of a parallel preliminary investigation for signing a 2006 law that lifted legal hurdles to granting road contracts. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The investigation into Toledo involves contracts for the IIRSA highway concessions..

In the plea agreement, Odebrecht admitted it paid bribes between 2005 and 2014 to win contracts for pipelines, roads, metro lines and hydroelectric plants in Peru. The projects spanned the administrations of Toledo and former presidents Alan Garcia and Ollanta Humala. Three former officials from the Garcia administration have been arrested.

The Kuczynski administration has banned Odebrecht from bidding for any new contracts pending the investigations and terminated a contract with an Odebrecht-led consortium to build and operate the $6.5bn Gasoducto Sur Peruano (GSP) natural gas pipeline.