A judge in Peru has issued an international arrest warrant for the country’s former President, Alejandro Toledo, in a growing corruption scandal sweeping Latin America.
Toledo – last seen in France – has denied claims he took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian building firm Odebrecht in exchange for awarding public works contracts.
Judge Richard Concepcion said evidence uncovered so far in the probe warranted putting Toledo in “preventive prison” while charges of influence peddling and money laundering were prepared.
But Toledo’s lawyer Heriberto Benitez accused the judge of having a “vengeance” and said he would appeal against the ruling.
“He can’t come back … I wouldn’t recommend it,” Benitez told reporters.
“With judges like this, careful!”
Despite the denials, Odebrecht’s confession to the US Justice Department that it paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in several countries threatens to implicate leaders and ex-leaders who once promoted the hydroelectric plants, highways and irrigation canals that Odebrecht has built over the past two decades.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has himself called for a thorough investigation of claims his 2014 re-election campaign may have received $1 million from Odebrecht.
The engineering conglomerate is also at the centre of the probe into bribes for contracts at Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petrobras and other government-controlled businesses there.The multi-pronged inquiry has seen dozens convicted of corruption and has left popular former President Lula da Silva facing several trials.
Odebrecht became one of the biggest government contractors under Panama’s former President Ricardo Martinelli. Now living in the US, he is also under investigation for corruption.
In a further twist, Panamanian prosecutors have raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the “Panama Papers” tax haven scandal. They were seeking possible links to Odebrecht.
Ramon Fonseca, a partner at Mossack Fonseca, denied that his firm had any connection to Odebrecht.