2 March 2018
Peru had awaited 27 and 28 February with extraordinary interest. These were the dates on which Jorge Barata, the former president of Odebrecht’s Lima operations, had agreed to provide testimony in return for freedom from prosecution. His former boss, Marcelo Odebrecht, had previously provided information on how his firm had paid large contributions to the presidential campaigns of various party leaders in Peru. But he had said at the time that Barata was the man in charge of these operations and would provide the detail.
Effectively, he did. His testimony covered payments to the election campaigns of APRA in 2006,and in 2011 to Ollanta Humala’s Partido Nacionalista, Keiko Fujimori’s Fuerza 2011, Alejandro Toledo’s Perú Posible and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s Alianza por el Gran Cambio.
As soon as Barata spilled the beans the cacophony of denials began. Both the presidential candidates themselves and the intermediaries mentioned in the testimony began proclaiming their innocence and denying receipt of any of the money mentioned. Their main defence is that there is no actual proof of the transactions since the alleged transfers were deliberately undocumented and (mostly) paid in cash.
The evidence provided will however be useful to the prosecutors in charge of the various investigations as they move forward. Ultimately, the Peruvian judiciary will have to decide on the veracity of the information provided.
Here we summarise for our readers the main points made by Barata in the evidence he gave. On 27 February, this related solely to Ollanta Humala. The next day was supposed to focus on Keiko Fujimori, but payments to others came out under questioning. In terms of contribution size, Humala headed the list (an alleged US$3 million), followed by Keiko Fujimori (US$1.2 million), Alejandro Toledo (US$700,000), Kuczynski (US$300,000) and Alan García (US$200,000 in 2006). Susana Villarán is thought to have received US$3 million for the ‘no’ campaign in 2013, but this was not mentioned specifically by Barata.
By and large, Barata’s testimony added little to what was already widely known about Odebrecht’s donations to Ollanta Humala’s campaign in 2011. Both Humala and Nadine Heredia are in jail accused of asset laundering (lavado de activos).
Barata confirmed that Odebrecht paid US$3 million at the personal request of President Lula da Silva. The money was therefore a ‘gift’ from the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT). He said that he had questioned the advisability of such a large sum since he did not believe that Humala would win the 2011 elections. “I expected nothing of Humala”, he is quoted as saying, “I expected him not to win the election. We had the perception that Keiko would win in the second round”.
The other payments were likewise made in cash. Barata’s lawyers prevented him specifying more in the hearing on Humala and Nadine Heredia. The money paid to Humala’s campaign came through the Department of Structured Operations, an entity within Odebrecht set up to channel otherwise undeclared moneys to assorted recipients worldwide.
The contribution was coordinated through Valdemir Garreta, following a meeting in August 2010 in a hotel in Sao Paulo. Garreta received between US$800,000 and 1 million. It was transferred to Peru by ‘doleiros’ (cash carriers). A further US$2 million was channelled directly in instalments to Nadine Heredia at an address in the Avenida Armendariz in Miraflores. All the money was transferred between October/September 2010 and May 2011.
For his part, Marcos de Moura Wanderley, a businessman, denied that OAS and Camargo Correa (other major Brazilian construction firms) had contributed to the Humala campaign.
Barata declared that US$1.2 million had been given to fund the presidential campaign of Keiko Fujimori in 2011. An initial contribution was of US$500,000 paid to the general secretary of Fuerza 2011 (the precursor of Fuerza Popular), Jaime Yoshiyama and “to someone called Bedoya whose first name I cannot recall”. This turned out to be Augusto Bedoya, formerly transport minister during Alberto Fujimori’s presidency.
Shortly before Barata gave his testimony, Yoshiyama and Bedoya left Peru for the United States.
Barata confirmed that the money had been paid through Odebrecht’s Department for Structured Operations and not through normal bank transfer, so as to conceal the source of the money.
A second payment of US$500,000 was made subsequent to the US$3 million paid to Humala. This related to what Marcelo Odebrecht had previously stated to “raise Keiko a further 500”. Barata said the US$1 million had been handed to Yoshiyama at Jirón Octavio Espinoza 220 in San Isidro.
A third payment of US$200,000 was made to the Fuerza 2011 campaign in advance of the second round. The request for funding came from Ricardo Briceño, then head of the business confederation Confiep, to the leaders of Peru’s ten largest business groups. The meeting included representatives from the Romero, Gloria, Brescia, Telefónica and Repsol. Each was left free to contribute what they wished, and Odebrecht contacted Yoshiyama and Bedoya to make effective its contribution. Confiep has denied Barata’s version of events.
During the questioning, Barata made clear that he did not enter into direct contact with Keiko, and that all the money was channelled through Yoshiyama and Bedoya.
In a press conference following Barata’s testimony, Keiko once again denied receiving money from Odebrecht.
On Alan García
Barata declared that the only candidate to receive Odebrecht support in 2006 was Alan García. The APRA campaign received US$200,000 through Luis Alva Castro. The money was disbursed in instalments, partly in the offices of APRA and partly in a flat belonging to Alva Castro. At a meeting in 2008 or 2009 in the presidential palace, Barata recalls García thanking Odebrecht for its overall assistance.
In the 2011 elections, Barata said that Odebrecht had received a request and had been ready to make a contribution to APRA, but there was a delay in the party’s choosing a candidate and when Mercedes Aráoz was finally selected it was too late and no payment was finally made.
Through his Twitter account, García denied receiving any money from Odebrecht.
Barata declared that in 2011 Odebrecht contributed US$300,000 to the campaign of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Kuczynski ran for president that year for the Alianza por el Gran Cambio. The money was paid in cash and instalments. Kuczynski has denied all knowledge of these financial contributions and says he received nothing.
Barata maintained that Susana de la Puente (who is now Peru’s ambassador to the UK) requested financial assistance in the Odebrecht offices and that she agreed to be the channel though which payments would be made. Barata said that “on one or two occasions” de la Puente sent someone else (a bald man named ‘José Luis’) to pick up the money. In a brief press statement, de la Puente denied “categorically” the veracity of the information offered by Barata.
Barata declared that Odebrecht had contributed US$700,000 to Toledo’s campaign in 2011. Payments were made in cash and these were coordinated through Toledo’s right-hand-man, Avraham Dan On. He said that Toledo’s campaign received more because they already knew him well (from his previous government). He refrained from saying whether these payments had anything to do with Odebrecht’s contract to build the Inter-Oceanic highway because this was not part of the terms for plea bargaining.
For this reason too, Barata also refrained from detailed comments on funding the ‘No’ campaign to prevent the recall of Susana Villarán. Previously he had stated that Odebrecht paid through Valdimir Garreta US$3 million.