Peru president quizzed over links to Brazil's Odebrecht

Lima (AFP) –


Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was being questioned Thursday by anti-corruption prosecutors over his links to Odebrecht, a disgraced Brazilian construction firm that has admitted to bribing officials to secure public works contracts.

The president's press service told AFP: "President Kuczynski is in a reserved meeting with the prosecutors since 9:30 am (1430 GMT) in the Government Palace."

The interrogation came a week after Kuczynski survived an impeachment motion in the opposition-dominated Congress over the same matter.

The motion was launched on accusations that Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker, had lied to cover up his ties to Odebrecht.

After initial denials, Kuczynski this month admitted he had taken money from Odebrecht for what he and the Brazilian company insisted were legitimate consulting fees.

The money was received between 2004 and 2013, a period during part of which Kuczynski was economy minister and head of cabinet for then-president Alejandro Toledo.

Odebrecht has admitted to paying millions of dollars in bribes to top officials in several Latin American countries to secure lucrative and inflated public works contracts. It has paid a record $2.6 billion in fines to the US, Brazilian and Swiss governments.

- $5 mn in payments -

The company has said it paid $20 million in kickbacks to Toledo, whom Peru wants extradited from the United States to face charges.

Kuczynski survived the impeachment vote because Kenji Fujimori, a lawmaker and son of a disgraced former president, Alberto Fujimori, drained some votes away from the main opposition Fuerza Popular party led by his sister Keiko Fujimori.

Three days later, Kuczynski pardoned Alberto Fujimori, who had been serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, including several murders by death squads, as well as corruption during his brutal 1990-2000 rule.

Kuczynski said the pardon was on humanitarian grounds, because Alberto Fujimori, 79, was said by his doctors to be in frail health.

Keiko Fujimori turned up to the prosecutors' office almost at the same time as Kuczynski, to also answer questions over Odebrecht funding for her electoral campaigns.

Kuczynski's interrogation was meant to have taken place a week ago, but was postponed because of the impeachment moves in Congress. The president had already been questioned before, in March, on the same matter.

The Odebrecht payments to Kuczynski in question totaled $782,207 in consulting fees, and another $4 million paid to a firm owned by a partner of the president.