All eyes on the public prosecutor

27 February 2017

Busy times for Peru’s public prosecutor, with former first lady Nadine Heredia joining Alejandro Toledo in the line of those accused of receiving funds from Odebrecht. Tricky times too in managing to maintain judicial impartiality when faced with a whirlwind of politically-inspired gossip and innuendo.

The investigation led by Hamilton Castro in to the Odebrecht scandal appears to be being handled with a high degree of professionalism, contrasting with that of the Congress where evidence-based probing takes a back seat to politically inspired back-stabbing.

The role of impartial jurisprudence in dealing with corruption was further highlighted last week by the presence in Lima of Sergio Moro, the prosecutor from Curitiba who, arguably more than anyone else, has brought the scale of corruption to public attention in Brazil by encouraging those involved to spill the beans in return for promises of lower sentences.

During the talk he gave to assembled lawyers and local prosecutors in Lima, Moro stressed the advantages to be gained from plea bargaining: “However great the crimes committed, this change of heart [on the behalf of those accused] represented a big advance and was an attitude that was praiseworthy on the part of these companies”.

Jorge Barata, the person in charge of Odebrecht’s relationship with successive Peruvian and other Latin American governments, has been the lynch-pin of revelations of key political figures and senior Peruvian officials in receiving cash from Odebrecht in return for (presumed) political favours in the awarding of construction contracts.

The latest person to hit the headlines in this respect is Nadine Heredia, wife of former president Ollanta Humala who, according to Barata’s testimony to the Peruvian public prosecutor, received US$3 million to help fund Humala’s 2011 presidential election campaign. Although this is arguably small beer compared with the US$20 million or more apparently given in bribes to former president Alejandro Toledo, it represents a serious indictment of the previous government and will add to the generalised sense of outrage felt by ordinary people at the political class as a whole.

According to Barata, the money paid to help Humala’s campaign came from an account managed by Odebrecht’s so-called Office of Structured Operations, an account hidden from view in Odebrecht’s published financial records and used to fund various instances of bribery.

It is important to clarify that a contribution to Humala’s Partido Nacionalista Peruano (PNP) does not consist of a bribe as such, and (according to Barata) was made at the specific request of then Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The interlocutor appears to have been Valdemir Garreta, one of Lula’s confidantes. The Peruvian electoral authorities have pointed in the past to the deficient reporting of the PNP’s sources of funding in the 2011 campaign.

Nadine Heredia has already been the target for criticisms about her spending habits, both during the campaign and subsequently.

Meanwhile, Alan García paid a lightening visit to Lima last week (ostensibly to give evidence to the public prosecutor) before returning to relative safety of Madrid. There has been much speculation that he, like Toledo and Humala, received monetary payments from Odebrecht. Time will tell if Barata’s testimony ends up pointing the finger at him. García alleges he did not know the vice-minister in the ministry of transport and communications who is now in jail for money received in relation to contracts surrounding Lima’s metro line, for which Odebrecht was the principal contractor.

Barata’s testimony also appears to make damaging allegations about the role of Graña y Montero, Peru’s largest construction company. According to a facsimile of a document reproduced by César Hildebrandt in this weekly ‘Hildebrant en sus Trece’. These suggest that the company, which was partner with Odebrecht in building the Inter-Oceanic Highway, knew about the payments made to Toledo. Barata writes “they [Odebrecht’s associates] knew that we had paid [Toledo] and knew that they had to pay the part that corresponded to them”. Graña y Montero’s share price took a hit on the Hildebrandt’s publication

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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