LIMA (Reuters) - A federal judge in Peru ordered 18 months of preventive prison pending a full trial for the sitting governor of the country’s Callao region, who is accused of accepting a $4 million bribe from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA.
After a 12-hour hearing, Judge Ricardo Manrique ruled late on Saturday that there was substantial evidence that Governor Felix Moreno accepted the bribe in exchange for awarding Odebrecht a 2014 contract to build a 5 km (3-mile) highway along the country’s central coast.
Peru frequently jails suspected criminals for extended periods to keep them from fleeing or obstructing ongoing investigations. The practice has been criticized by some as violating the right to due process.
Moreno’s lawyer, Jose Luis Castillo, said the decision was arbitrary and that he planned to appeal.
In December, Odebrecht admitted publicly that it had doled out hundreds of millions in bribes to unnamed authorities across Latin America, including $29 million to win contracts in Peru over a decade-long period spanning three presidencies.
Prosecutors said Moreno had ordered part of the bribe to finance his 2014 reelection campaign managed by political strategist Luis Favre. Both Favre and Moreno have denied receiving payments from Odebrecht.
Odebrecht-related investigations have ensnared former Peruvian president Alan Garcia, who is accused of corruption involving the construction of Lima’s metro system. Peru has also asked the United States to extradite former president Alejandro Toledo, who is accused of receiving bribes.
Reporting by Ursula Scollo; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn