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Peru ex-official confesses he was frontman for Garcia bribes

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Lima (AFP)

A former high-ranking official has confessed that he acted as a frontman for Peru's late ex-president Alan Garcia, receiving money from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht which he later transferred in installments to the leader, a prosecutor said here.

Miguel Atala Herrera, former vice president of state-run PetroPeru, "confessed to having received money from Odebrecht to deliver to former president Garcia", who committed suicide two weeks ago, prosecutor Jose Domingo Perez told a court hearing on Tuesday.

Atala "is collaborating with the prosecution," said Perez, a member of the team investigating the Odebrecht scandal.

Also collaborating is defendant Jose Nava Mendiola, son of the former secretary of the presidency during Garcia's second term, Perez said.

The prosecution withdrew three-year preventive detention orders for Atala and his son Samir Atala for their collaboration, as well as the one for Nava Mendiola.

Nava Mendiola's father, Garcia confidante Luis Nava Guibert, remains in preventative detention at a clinic in Lima where is receiving treatment for heart problems and denies any wrongdoing.

"These statements will confirm who was the recipient of the bribes," analyst Luis Benavente, director of consultancy Vox Populi, told AFP.

Last week a top former executive of Odebrecht gave details in Brazil of multi-million dollar payoffs to Peruvian politicians including a top aide of Garcia.

Jorge Barata, the multinational's former chief in Peru, provided Peruvian prosecutors with details of "money routes" the firm used to distribute payoffs to powerful figures, from presidents to mayors, to win contracts for public infrastructure projects.

His testimony involves four Peruvian presidents, including the late Garcia, who shot himself in the head when he was about to be arrested on April 17.

Barata's evidence follows a cooperation agreement signed between Odebrecht and Peru's public prosecutor in December.

As part of the deal, Odebrecht must pay $182 million to Peru in civil reparations, an amount based on the four projects the Brazilian firm gained through paying bribes.

The company paid $788 million in bribes throughout a dozen Latin American countries to obtain major public works contracts over a decade, according to the US Department of Justice.

Odebrecht has admitted to paying $29 million in bribes in Peru between 2005 and 2014.

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