Anti-corruption judge sidelined in Peru

Lima (AFP) –


A judge in Peru who ordered the jailing of two ex-presidents over the Odebrecht corruption scandal is being sidelined as part of a reform of the country's judicial system that has ignited a new wave of controversy.

Richard Concepcion Carhuancho, celebrated for his tough stance on corruption, now finds his future as a top criminal judge in doubt under the new law.

The law, he said, represents "a loss of confidence, not only in me but in all the judges of the National Criminal Court that fight against corruption," he said.

The head of Peru's top court, Duberli Rodriguez, denied Thursday that the aim was to remove Concepcion from high-profile cases but warned that if he does not accept the new rules, he will be "in contempt."

Rodriguez insisted the changes "will not affect cases linked to Odebrecht," the Brazilian contractor at the center of a string of major corruption cases in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski himself narrowly survived impeachment by Congress last week over allegations he lied about his links to the firm.

Three days after the vote, Kuczynski set off a new storm of protests by granting a pardon to former president Alberto Fujimori, whose supporters in Congress helped the president fend off the impeachment threat.

Fujimori has been serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights abuses during his 1990-2000 presidency, including ordering the death squad murders of 25 people.

Rodriguez insisted that the judicial reforms were aimed at strengthening the courts' ability to prosecute cases involving organized crime.

In practice, however, it calls for new judges to be named to the National Criminal Court, where Concepcion has won praise for his courage in taking on the powerful and well-connected.

Moreover, corruption cases are to be transferred to a newly created court under the new system.

There is no guarantee Concepcion will be assigned to either court as he must apply to be reinstated.

- Prison for ex-presidents -

Concepcion gained public attention for ordering the jailing of two former presidents, business executives and government officials at the request of prosecutors investigating Odebrecht's activities.

Odebrecht admitted in 2016 that it paid $29 million in bribes in Peru between 2005 and 2014, during the presidencies of Alejandro Toledo, Alan Garcia and Ollanta Humala.

In February, Concepcion ordered 18 months preventive detention for Toledo after he was accused of receiving $20 million in bribes from Odebrecht for a contract to build an inter-oceanic highway through Peru during his 2001-2006 presidency.

Toledo is in the United States where he is fighting a request for his extradition.

In July, Concepcion ordered 18 months preventive detention for Humala, who was president from 2011 to 2016. Humala's wife also was ordered jailed.

Several weeks ago, four executives and former executives of Peruvian construction companies that partnered with Odebrecht were taken into custody on Concepcion's orders.

A former vice minister and three other government officials also have been jailed over alleged irregularities in the construction of a Lima metro line during Garcia's 2006-2011 presidency.

"I only acted in accordance with the law. Every decision I have made is subject to appeal before higher courts," Concepcion said last month.