Peru kicks off corruption case against Keiko Fujimori

Fujimori, who conceded last month after a failed presidential run, is accused of taking illicit money from Brazil’s Odebrecht firm.

Keiko Fujimori, the 46-year-old daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, denies the allegations against her [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

Corruption proceedings against Peruvian opposition politician Keiko Fujimori kicked off with a preliminary court hearing on Tuesday, just weeks after she conceded defeat in her third unsuccessful presidential run.

Fujimori lost the June 6 runoff against leftist Pedro Castillo with 49.87 percent of the vote to his 50.12 percent.

Election victory for Fujimori would have meant freedom from prosecution for the duration of her presidential term on charges that arise from a sprawling corruption case involving scandal-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

She stands accused of taking illicit money from Odebrecht to fund failed presidential bids in 2011 and 2016.

Supporters of Peru’s President Pedro Castillo gather as Prime Minister Guido Bellido faced a critical vote of no confidence by the opposition-led Congress, in Lima on August 26 [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

The 46-year-old daughter of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori denies the allegations.

But prosecutors have said they would seek a jail term of 30 years and 10 months for Fujimori on charges of money laundering, organised crime, obstruction of justice and making false declarations.

She has already served pre-trial detention twice, spending 16 months behind bars in total until her release last year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The hearing that opened on Tuesday before Judge Victor Zuniga is the first step in what would be the first trial of a prominent Peruvian political figure in the Odebrecht scandal.

It is meant to review the charge sheet against Fujimori and 39 co-accused defendants, after which the judge can approve all or part of the indictment drawn up by prosecutor Jose Domingo Perez.

A demonstrator takes part in a march demanding the resignation of Peru’s President Pedro Castillo in Lima, Peru [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

The accused include Fujimori’s husband, American Mark Vito Villanella, and others who were members or leaders of her Popular Force Party – long dominant in Peruvian politics, but now the second-largest in parliament after Castillo’s Free Peru movement.

Fujimori was not in court on Tuesday, represented instead by her lawyer Giuliana Loza.

Under the conditions for her release from pre-trial detention, Fujimori is not allowed to leave Lima without special permission, or to have contact with witnesses in the case.

The pre-trial hearing can take days, weeks or even months.

Four former presidents have been implicated in the Odebrecht affair, including two-term leader Alan Garcia, who committed suicide in 2019 when police came to his house to arrest him.

Alberto Fujimori is in prison on unrelated counts of corruption and crimes against humanity.

Source: AFP