The judge that put Keiko Fujimori in 36 months preventive detention was declared 'not impartial' by an appeals court and kicked off the case. State prosecutors try to overturn the ruling.
A Peruvian appeals court has ruled to dismiss Judge Richard Concepcion Carhuancho from the controversial case against legislator Keiko Fujimori who, along with several Fuerza Popular party advisors is accused of accepting at least US$1.2 million in bribes from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential bid.
Lawyers of Fujimori’s former campaign chief Jaime Yoshiyama requested the change.
"The Second National Criminal Appeals Court declares that the challenge against Judge Richard Concepcion Carhuancho is well founded," said the appeals court in a statement. Yoshiyama’s defense team argued that Concepcion was not acting impartiality and accused the judge of defending state prosecutors working against their client to the media.
"The judge ... did not preserve … impartiality on facts (about the case and) made conclusive statements about facts that are still under investigation, which implies advancing the case in favor of one of the parties," said the appeals court in its ruling.
During a recent interview with a Peruvian radio station, Concepcion evidently making conclusive statements on the case and added: "I understand that I am a judge, but above all I am also a citizen and this news has caused me deep indignation and concern," which the appeals court says adds to Concepcion’s impartiality.
Yoshiyama is currently in Miami, Florida, where according to his lawyers, he’s recovering from an eye treatment. Concepcion had ordered his extradition and preventive detention in Peru.
Fujimori, daughter of former authoritarian Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) and her political advisor both deny that state prosecutors have any proof against them even though former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht and the company’s director in Peru, Jorge Barata already confessed to making illicit campaign donations to Peruvian prosecutors in 2018.
According to local media, the change in judges could result in the early release of Keiko from the 36-month preventive detention mandated by Concepcion last November.
According to special prosecutors Jose Domingo Perez and Rafael Vela, in charge of the case against Fujimori and other cases within the sprawling Odebrecht scandal, Keiko leads "a criminal organization" within her party. She has a 19 percent approval rating according to Ipsos for her current work within the national legislator which doesn’t bode well for her 2021 presidential hopes.
"This situation causes me surprise and outrage," prosecutor Vela told the media on Tuesday. Vela and his team coordinating the Odebrecht case in Peru are trying to nullify the appeal court's ruling.
Concepcion was set to rule on a resolution on Jan. 25 brought forth by Perez and Vela accusing Keiko’s lawyers over interfering with their investigation against their client. The next presiding judge will have to make the ruling.
No replacement judge has been chosen yet, but there are three possible candidates: Roger Benitez, Elizabeth Arias Quispe and Angel Mendivil Mamani.
According to La Republica newspaper out of Peru, Benitez worked on a previous corruption case in which Fujimori was on trial and ruled in favor of the lawmaker. Mendivil is investigated for releasing two alleged drug traffickers.
After Peru's attorney general stepped down last week after being accused of interfering in the Keiko case, the state office was declared under a state of emergency by high courts in order to restore public confidence in their judicial and oversight systems that are swirling in several corruption scandals.