Former Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and his wife were taken into custody after a judge ordered them held during an investigation into money laundering and conspiracy accusations tied to the scandal- tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. Soon after the judge issued his order last night, Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia, were driven to the courthouse under a heavy police escort. There was no immediate word on where they would be held. Prosecutors filed a petition early in the week asking for preventative detention, arguing the couple might flee Peru to evade justice. Judge Richard Concepcion ordered them held for up to 18 months while they are investigated. The former president has denied the allegations, which arose from testimony by the former head of Odebrecht saying he illegally contributed USD 3 million to Humala’s 2011 presidential campaign. The couple is also accused of taking undeclared funds from the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez during a previous, unsuccessful presidential bid. Humala, who finished his term in 2016, never declared the contributions and prosecutors argue that he and his wife conspired to hide them for personal gain. Humala and his wife didn’t attend the hearing, but he has said he looks forward to defending himself. As the couple headed to the courthouse, Humala said in a Tweet: “This confirms the abuse of power which we will confront in defence of our rights and those of everyone.”
Before the ruling, he said there was no need for detention.
“We’re staying here, we’ve even handed over our passports,” Humala told reporters who had been gathered outside his home for three days. “In every moment we’ve shown our roots and good will. But the prosecutor sees everything we do in the opposite light. I think he’s been poisoned.” The same judge previously ordered the arrest of another former Peruvian president, Alejandro Toledo, for related charges. Toledo is in the US fighting attempts by Peruvian authorities to have him deported to answer the charges. Authorities across Latin America have been moving to charge officials accused of taking some USD 800 million in bribes from Odebrecht. The company acknowledged the bribes when it signed a plea agreement in December with the US Justice Department.
The bribes include some USD 29 million paid in Peru for projects built during the administrations of Toledo, Humala and former President Alan Garcia. The same scandal has ensnared former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was convicted Wednesday and sentenced to almost 10 years in jail for taking gifts from another Brazilian builder that along with Odebrecht paid bribes to politicians in exchange for government contracts. Silva denies the accusation and will remain free while he appeals what he says are politically motivated charges.