After tremendous national pressure from demonstrators and government officials Peru’s attorney general reinstated two public prosecutors, Jose Domingo Perez and Rafael Vela, to their government posts as the main investigators of the far-reaching Odebrecht corruption case within the country.
Peru President Requests State of Emergency as Odebrecht Prosecutors Dismissed
Two days after dismissing junior public lawyers, Peruvian Attorney General Pedro Chavarry was forced to put Perez and Vela back on the Odebrecht case after major protests against Chavarry’s decision took place on Jan. 1. Less than a week prior, the two provincial prosecutors formally accused Chavarry of “obstructing” their case against national legislator and Fuerza Popular leader, Keiko Fujimori, for allegedly receiving US$1.2 million from the Brazil-based construction company during her 2011 presidential run.
Fuerza Popular legislators have shielded Chavarry from four major investigations against him.
In his statement released Wednesday, Chavarry says that he recognizes "the importance of the investigation” and added that the findings of the special prosecutors "should be made transparent." On Dec. 31, Chavarry proposed replacing the two prosecutors, celebrated for following through with their anti-graft mission, with hand-picked choices, Frank Almanza and Marcial Paucar, who both declined the appointment.
Vela said in a press conference he and Perez were dismissed Monday was because of the effectiveness of their investigation that began last August.
Since then the two, along with a small team of public prosecutors, have been investigating Odebrecht in Peru for allegedly paying an estimated US$30 million in bribes to former and current Peruvian elected officials. These include former Presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Alan Garcia (1985-1990, 2006-2011) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018) over the past 20 years in return for construction contracts, and Keiko Fujimori.
In mid-November, Perez succeeded in having Fujimori and several of her political advisors put in 36 months of preventive detention, and prohibiting her husband, Mark Vito, from leaving the country during the same period while investigations were underway.
Peru Officials To Testify in Odebrecht Case in Brazil
Hours before Chavarry made his Wednesday about-face, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra asked the national assembly to approve a state of emergency for the attorney general's office, and national level prosecutors Pablo Sanchez and Zoraida Avalos have requested that Chavarry resign from office calling his removal of the special prosecutors "serious interference" in the Odebrecht investigations.
In mid-December Perez and Vela announced that they reached a deal with Brazilian prosecutors and Odebrecht executives in Sao Paulo to allow Brazil’s lawyers to interrogate 23 former Peruvian politicians, government officials and Odebrecht executives who previously worked in Peru about 50 allegedly illicit Odebrecht contracts and subsequent kickbacks that took place between 2005 and 2014.
Testimonies were set to be taken between Jan. 14 and 23 in Curitiba, Brazil. It’s unclear if the special hearings will still take place.
Shortly before that, Perez and Vela negotiated a deal with Odebrecht in Peru that allowed the company to continue to operate in the country in exchange for US$200 million to be paid over 15 years. Odebrecht executives also agreed to testify that they paid kickbacks to politicians in at least four major construction projects.
President Vizcarra has reiterated his support for the special prosecutor's investigation, saying he will “shake up (Peru’s stability), but in a good way that will also increase (political) transparency and honesty that Peruvians demand." Vizcarra has garnered wide support within the country for his fight against corruption. He took office in March after Kuczynski was removed on suspicion of receiving Odebrecht kickbacks and a no confidence vote from Congress.