Judge orders Peru's former president Kuczynski to jail for 10 days

LIMA (Reuters) – A judge ordered Peru’s former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to spend 10 days in jail and authorized a search of his properties in connection with a bribery probe into Brazilian builder Odebrecht, according to a judicial resolution seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

In a phone interview broadcast on local TV channel Panamericana, Kuczynski called the order “ridiculous”, adding “I don’t have an opinion for now.” He declined further comment.

Kuczynski’s attorney Nelson Miranda said he would file an appeal.

TV images showed police officers gathered outside Kuczynski’s sprawling home in Lima’s financial district while crowds of journalists waited for his arrest.

An 80-year-old former Wall Street banker who renounced his U.S. citizenship to run as president, Kuczynski narrowly won the 2016 election but resigned a year ago in the face of near-certain impeachment by the opposition-controlled Congress.

Prosecutors have accused Kuczynski of involvement in “corrupt acts” related to a highway contract and an irrigation contract that Odebrecht won while Kuczynski was a cabinet minister in the government of former president Alejandro Toledo, according to the judicial resolution. His secretary and driver were also ordered to spend 10 days in jail, it said.

Peruvian judges have ordered several politicians, including Toledo, to be jailed before trial since early 2017, after Odebrecht sparked Latin America’s biggest graft scandal by admitting publicly that it had secured lucrative contracts across the region by bribing officials.

Toledo denies wrongdoing and is fighting extradition to Peru from the United States.

After initially denying having any ties to Odebrecht, Kuczynski eventually acknowledged that his consulting firm had received payments from Odebrecht before he became a minister. But he said he had relinquished control of the company before he took office and denied the payments were bribes.

Kuczynski has said he was cooperating with prosecutors. Authorities barred him from leaving Peru shortly after he resigned the presidency and later froze his bank accounts.

In Peru, suspects can be jailed without trial for up to three years if prosecutors show they have evidence that would likely lead to a conviction and that the suspects would likely try to flee or obstruct their work.

Kuczynski former vice president, Martin Vizcarra, is now president and has made the fight against corruption the centerpiece of his government.

The ruling party slammed Kuczynski’s arrest order as “excessive and disproportionate” on Twitter. Politicians from other parties also criticized it.

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