February, 20 2018 (Reuters)
LIMA (Reuters) – A former executive of scandal-plagued Brazilian builder Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] told prosecutors investigating the company in Peru that he gave money to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s 2011 election campaign, an attorney for opposition party leader Keiko Fujimori said on local television on Wednesday.
The prosecutors traveled to Brazil this week to question the executive, Jorge Barata, about 2011 campaign contributions that they suspect were part of money laundering and graft schemes.
Barata was once the head of Odebrecht’s operations in Peru and is now cooperating with prosecutors about bribes that the company acknowledged paying to secure contracts.
Fujimori’s attorney, Giuliana Loza, said Barata also told prosecutors that he gave money to two members of Fujimori’s party in her 2011 campaign. “We’re going to ask for their respective explanations,” Loza told journalists in Brazil in comments broadcast on local TV channel Canal N.
Kuczynski and Fujimori, Kuczynski’s chief political rival, have repeatedly denied taking any money from Odebrecht.
On Wednesday, Kuczynski said on Twitter that he never received a donation from Barata for his campaigns, and that he was not in charge of finances in his failed 2011 presidential bid. His office declined further comment.
In comments to journalists in Lima on Wednesday, Fujimori denied that any money from Odebrecht found its way into her party. She called for prosecutors to close the money laundering probe into her.
As president, Kuczynski has immunity from prosecution and can only be formally investigated once he leaves office.
Kuczynski’s term is scheduled to end in 2021, but lawmakers in the opposition-controlled Congress have been discussing holding a new vote to remove Kuczynski. A vote in December after he failed to reveal his past business ties to Odebrecht failed passage by just eight votes.
Odebrecht has been at the center of Latin America’s biggest graft scandal since acknowledging in a late 2016 leniency deal that it had bribed officials in a dozen countries, including Peru.
Two former Peruvian presidents, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo, have been ensnared in the scandal.
Prosecutors allege that Humala, who is now in pre-trial detention, laundered money for Odebrecht by taking campaign contributions earned through graft. Toledo, under whom Kuczynski served as finance minister and prime minister, is accused of taking a $20 million bribe from Odebrecht.
Barata’s testimony has been central to both investigations. Humala and Toledo deny taking money from Odebrecht.
Reuters could not independently confirm what Barata told prosecutors this week. The lead prosecutor on the case, Rafael Vela, told reporters in Brazil that he could not discuss details.