LIMA – President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and his main rival, Keiko Fujimori, were questioned on Thursday by prosecutors investigating the corruption scandal that has dominated Peruvian politics in 2017.
While prosecutors met with Kuczynski at the presidential palace, Fujimori – the daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori – reported to the Attorney General’s Office for her interrogation.
Their cases are not directly linked, but both have to do with the activities in Peru of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has acknowledged paying $788 million in bribes to obtain government contracts in a dozen countries.
Kuczynski, accompanied by his attorney, spent four hours answering questions about payments from Odebrecht to his financial-consulting business.
The firm, Westfield Capital Ltd., received more than $782,000 from Odebrecht between 2004 and 2007, a period when Kuczynski served as economy minister and prime minister in the 2001-2006 administration of President Alejandro Toledo.
When word of those payments became public two weeks, Keiko Fujimori’s Popular Force, which has a majority in Congress, pushed to impeach Kuczynski for having lied when he denied any connections to Odebrecht.
The president addressed Congress last Thursday before the vote on the impeachment motion, telling lawmakers that during his tenure with the Toledo administration, he turned over management of Westfield to then-business partner Gerardo Sepulveda, and that it was the latter who signed the consulting contract with Odebrecht.
Kuczynski said that he was unaware at the time of the work for Odebrecht, as he had erected a “Chinese wall” between himself and Westfield’s operations.
The impeachment bid failed, thanks to the votes of Kenji Fujimori – Keiko’s younger brother – and nine other dissident Popular Force legislators.
At the AG Office, Keiko Fujimori, who lost to Kuczynski in the 2016 presidential runoff, submitted to five hours of questioning about allegations that Popular Force received illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht over the course of a decade.
The Odebrecht scandal has implicated Peru’s major political parties and every presidential administration going back to 2005.
Odebrecht executives said that as much as $20 million in bribes were paid to Toledo – now living abroad – and that significant sums also went to the government of his successor, Alan Garcia.
Ollanta Humala, who was president from 2011-2016, is behind bars along with his wife pending trial on charges they accepted illegal political contributions from Odebrecht.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing Odebrecht investigation, Kuczynski stunned Peru on Christmas Eve announcing a pardon for Alberto Fujimori, who has been serving a 25-year prison sentence for massacres committed by security forces during his 1990-2000 rule.