Peruvian president investigated in Brazil Petrobras probe

AP News
Posted: Feb 26, 2016 5:09 PM
Peruvian president investigated in Brazil Petrobras probe

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian police investigating a massive kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras are now looking closely at Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and a former Argentine transportation minister, according to an internal document obtained by The Associated Press.

The 44-page federal police report dated Feb. 5 now moves the sprawling corruption probe beyond Brazil's borders, saying investigators suspect Humala received $3 million in bribes from the large Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for contracts in Peru.

 Humala's press office did not respond Friday to repeated requests for comment. It tweeted that the president had called Brazil's ambassador in Peru to deny the allegations.

Attempts to find a lawyer representing the former Argentine minister, Ricardo Raul Jaime, were unsuccessful.

The document is being reviewed by Brazilian Judge Sergio Moro, who is presiding over the sprawling Petrobras case that has brought down top Brazilian politicians and company executives. 

Moro's office declined to comment. Legal experts say the judge could ask Brazil's foreign minister to ask Peruvian authorities for an investigation or order prosecutors to go after Humala in Brazilian courts.

"Brazil will probably request further investigation from Peruvian authorities" as a first step, said Maristela Basso, a professor of International Law at the University of Sao Paulo, adding that if Humala is tried in a Brazilian court it could lead to an Interpol arrest warrant.

Hamilton Castro, the Peruvian anti-corruption prosecutor investigating illegal payoffs to politicians allegedly made by Odebrecht and other big Brazilian construction firms, has refused to discuss the case. He has traveled to Brazil several times to talk to prosecutors here.

The document says that police seized emails written by a former Odebrecht executive that made reference to $3 million for "Project OH," which they believe referred to the Peruvian leader.

Police acknowledged the investigation but declined to comment further.

Odebrecht has dozens of contracts in Peru, including for ports, gas, bridges and roads. The company has denied any illegal payments to political parties or public authorities.

The company downplayed the naming of Humala in connection with the probe.

"It is not a formal accusation, it is more initial evaluations based on the interpretation of notes by Brazil's Federal Police," the construction firm said in a statement.

As for Jaime, the document alleges that the former minister had been bribed by Odebrecht for a contract to build a large tunnel project for Buenos Aires trains.

The document says that former CEO Marcelo Odebrecht had "direct control" over negotiations with Jaime. Odebrecht has been jailed since June, convicted of criminal association, corruption and money laundering charges in the Petrobras scandal.

Jaime was transportation minister from 2002-2009 and has been charged with more than two dozen crimes related to corruption in Argentina. He was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment on a fraud charge related to a 2012 train accident in Buenos Aires that killed 51 people.

The probe, termed Operation Car Wash, began two years ago and has snared dozens of senior politicians along with executives of multi-national construction companies.

Joao Santana, the campaign strategist behind President Dilma Rousseff's electoral victories in 2010 and 2014, was arrested on Tuesday. He and his wife are suspected of using secret foreign bank accounts to receive millions of dollars in illicit funds from offshore companies controlled by Odebrecht.

"In the last couple years in Latin America, we have seen a boom in cases of corruption, with Petrobras being the biggest," said Alejandro Salas, Americas director for Transparency International. "Petrobras is important because it shows that this kind of corruption isn't just about one guy putting money in his pocket, but rather a system of organized crime."


Associated Press writers Frank Bajak and Franklin Briceno in Lima, Peru, and Peter Prengaman in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.