The start of ex-Peru president trial on massive Odebrecht corruption case

The former president of Peru Ollanta Humala is the first of several ex-presidents involved in the massive Odebrecht corruption case to stand trial in the country.

Ollanta Humala former president of Peru
Ollanta Humala, President of Peru between 2011 and 2016 faces corruption charges in the Odebrecht case | © World Bank photo collection, 2015

The trial of former Peru President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia for the Odebrecht corruption scandal started on February 21.

Humala is accused to have illegally financed the 2011 presidential campaign with the support of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, and from the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez for his unsuccessful bid during the 2006 electoral campaign.

President Humala and his wife reject any wrongdoing.

The prosecution requested 20 years of prison against the former president of Peru and 26 years for his wife based on money laundering accusations and irregular contributions in the two electoral campaigns. Friends and family members are also accused of having participated in the plot.

The couple is accused to have received US$3 million from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for the 2011 electoral campaign. Nadine Heredia is also charged for having bought some properties with the money.

The trial will gather 285 witnesses, including the businessman Marcelo Bahía Odebrecht. Odebrecht admitted in a U.S. Justice Department plea agreement he paid $800 million in bribes to high-ranking officials in a dozen countries around Latin America and Africa in exchange for lucrative public works contracts.

The corruption scandal with Odebrecht has stained the highest political leaders of Peru in the last two decades. Humala is the first former leader of Peru standing trial in Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal.

Three other ex-presidents of Peru have been involved in the case.

Former President Alejandro Toledo, in office from 2001 to 2006, has also been accused of illegally receiving $20 million from Odebrecht. Peru is seeking his extradition from the United States.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who left office in 2018, is under house arrest for similar charges. Facing an impeachment for having allegedly received $782,000 from Odebrecht, he eventually resigned from office in March 2018.

Keiko Fujimori, the presidential election candidate who lost against Kuczynski in 2016 and Pedro Castillo in 2021, was also put on pretrial detention in 2018 before being released.

And when authorities in 2019 came to arrest Alan García, the president of Peru from 2006 to 2011, for the Odebrecht probe he shot himself in the head.

Humala and his wife were arrested in 2017 as a preventive measure but released the next year. Now, the former first lady is under house arrest and the ex-president is free, although he needs to go to a court every month to report and sign before a judge.

The trial is being done virtually because of the pandemic. Odebrecht has been renamed Novonor.

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