Former Lima mayor jailed in Peru Odebrecht case

Lima (AFP) –


A Peruvian judge Tuesday sentenced former Lima mayor Susana Villaran to 18 months' preventive detention for accepting illegal campaign funds from Brazilian construction firms Odebrecht and OAS.

The Odebrecht bribery scandal, which has washed through Latin America, runs deep in Peru, where the country's last four presidents are accused of receiving illegal payoffs.

Villaran, Lima's mayor from 2014-2018, is accused of taking millions of dollars from Odebrecht to finance a recall referendum in 2013 -- which she won -- and from OAS for a failed re-election bid in 2014.

Judge Jorge Chavez of Lima's Third Special Investigation Court for Corruption Crimes denied prosecutors' request to impose a 36-month sentence but justified a jail sentence saying there was evidence of "hindering and concealment of evidence" by Villaran.

She was also a flight risk, he said.

Prosecutor Angela Zuloaga told the court that Peru's former Odebrecht chief, Jorge Barata, testified that he contributed $3 million to Villaran, a former presidential candidate who ran in the 2006 election.

"Jorge Barata said that the mayor thanked him for his contribution," the prosecutor told the court.

The money from Odebrecht and OAS "was not free, but was due to two public works," she said.

Villaran admitted that she received campaign contributions from Brazilian companies, in contrast to the denials of the former presidents under investigation.

The former mayor also said she was ready to go to jail.

"I am not one of those people who run away, who evades justice. I am one of the people who faces up to things. I have a family to which I respond with the truth by showing my face. I believe in justice. I will never evade justice," she told the court.

She is accused of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering.

Zuloaga, the prosecutor, said Latin America's largest engineering firm had made the contributions in return for lucrative road contracts in Lima.

OAS also contributed $3 million to her campaign in 2014, allegedly through a Lima municipality official Miguel Castro.

The prosecution has also called for 36 months in preventive detention for him. Five other Villaran associates are under investigation in the case.

The Brazilian constructor has admitted to paying millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Peru in return for public works contracts.