Peru’s former first lady faces jail over Odebrecht corruption

Following Bribery Division, a Peruvian prosecutor requested three years in prison for former Peruvian first lady Nadine Heredia for alleged corruption connected with Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

A Peruvian prosecutor has requested three years in prison for former Peruvian first lady Nadine Heredia and two former ministers for alleged corruption in awarding state contracts to the disgraced Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

Special Prosecutor Geovana Mori has accused Heredia of leading a scheme to steer a $7 billion pipeline, the Gasoducto Sur Peruano, to Odebrecht in exchange for campaign contributions to her husband, former president Ollanta Humala, and other illegal payments.

Heredia was the scheme’s “leader” and “had the role or function of developing the criminal plans and communicating them to other members of the organization,” Mori has alleged in court filings.

More than $3 million in secret payments by Odebrecht made in connection to the Gasoducto Sur project were first revealed in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Bribery Division investigation, published in June 2019.

The Bribery Division, which was based on a leak of more than 13,000 documents from a unit of Odebrecht whose primary purpose was managing bribes, uncovered hidden payments to prominent figures and major public works across Latin America not mentioned in criminal cases or other official inquiries previously.

In Peru, four ex-presidents have faced accusations of Odebrecht-related corruption. Last April,  former two-term president Alan Garcia shot himself to death as police arrived at his home to arrest him on corruption charges linked to Odebrecht.

After the Bribery Division revelations, Peruvian prosecutors zeroed in on corruption linked to the massive Gasoducto Sur pipeline.

In July, they raided Heredia’s home as well as the homes of two former ministers of energy; in August, they re-interrogated former top executives at Odebrecht to try to crack the codenames used in the Bribery Division documents.

Earlier this month, Special Prosecutor Mori released findings from her “preparatory investigation,” a preliminary step in the filing of criminal charges.

The document released by Mori accused Heredia and numerous former officials of the offenses of “aggravated collusion” and “illicit association” for their roles in the licensing of the pipeline. Among those accused were two ministers in the administration of Heredia’s husband: Minister of Energy and Mines Eleodoro Mayorga and Minister of Economy and Finance Luis Castilla.

On March 11, Mori solicited three years “preventive prison” sentences against Heredia and the two ministers, reported ICIJ’s partners at Convoca.

Under Peruvian law, suspects may be detained prior to a trial if a judge finds there is substantial evidence to indicate that they may have committed serious crimes.

Both Heredia and Humala have already spent time in jail under prior preventive prison terms linked to Odebrecht corruption.

Heredia has denied that she inappropriately favored Odebrecht in awarding the Gasoducto Sur contract and charged that certain media outlets “need to criminalize” her name.

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