Subplot two: Odebrecht bribery scandals

10 August 2019

A second subplot concerns the corruption scandals surrounding Odebrecht and other Brazilian construction firms. Last week saw aspersions cast on the whole process of plea bargaining with a view to exculpating those held responsible. It also saw a Supreme Court verdict on Keiko Fujimori, the leader of Fuerza Popular, detained for the last eight months pending trail.

As the Supreme Court was unable to agree on what path to take, Keiko remains on remand while her case continues. The Supreme Court agreed she was still a risk because of the way she and her people had interfered with judicial procedures, but they could not agree on whether she should stay on remand for the full 36 months or if this should be reduced to 18. Two judges voted for the time to remain three years, while the other three judges voted for a reduction to a year and a half.

As well as Keiko, four past presidents are embroiled in the scandals surrounding Brazilian construction contracts, two previous mayors of Lima and now a former prime minister and twice regional governor (of San Martín), César Villanueva.

In further interviews last week with Peruvian judicial investigators, Jorge Simões Barata, the man behind Lava Jato bribery in Peru, announced that the company had paid US$60,000 (in two payments of US$30,000) to Villanueva when he was governor of San Martín in order to secure a roadbuilding contract there in 2008. Since then, Villanueva has said that he had always worked “honestly and transparently” and that he had revoked his parliamentary immunity “so that the truth can prevail”.

President Vizcarra said that he was “surprised” by the information on Villanueva who was his prime minister until last March.

Other names in the spotlight included those of Susana Villarán, Horacio Cánepa and Martín Bustamente. The last of these points to links between Odebrecht and former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio. Bustamente also apparently received a US$220,000 payment from another Brazilian construction company, OAS, to help pay Castañeda’s election expenses. Villarán was also mayor of Lima in between the two periods in which Castañeda was mayor. She was apparently paid US$500,000 by Odebrecht to secure a contract to run Rutas de Lima in 2013.

Barata also provided documentary evidence as to payment of US$500,000 to Keiko Fujimori to help with her election expenses in the 2011 elections. He also disclosed payments to various Peruvian journalists. Though they have all denied receiving money from Odebrecht, Barata has given assurances that he has documents to prove it.

The fact that so many people were on Odebrecht’s payroll goes to show the level to which they had infiltrated Peruvian society. 

According to the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), Lourdes Flores Nano, leader of the Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC), also received covert payments from Odebrecht.

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