(Adds context on graft inquiry)
LIMA Feb 7 Prosecutors in Peru asked a judge to
order the arrest of former President Alejandro Toledo on Tuesday
for suspected involvement in a bribery scheme linked to
scandal-plagued Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht
Authorities searched a house owned by Toledo in Lima on
Saturday after finding $11 million in the bank account of one of
his associates. Prosecutors believe the money was part of $20
million in bribes that Odebrecht has acknowledged paying to
officials during Toldeo's 2001-2006 government.
In their request on Tuesday, prosecutors asked Judge Richard
Concepcion to jail Toledo for up to 18 months while they prepare
criminal charges against him, the attorney general's office said
Concepcion is expected to hand down a decision this week.
Toledo rose to power denouncing the rampant corruption in
the government of his predecessor Alberto Fujimori, an
authoritarian leader who is serving a 25-year prison sentence
for graft and human rights abuses.
Toledo's indigenous roots and rise from shoeshine boy to
successful economist, inspired many poor Peruvians and helped
catapult him to the presidency. But after leaving office, his
image has been tarnished by a long-running investigation into
potential money laundering linked to his family's purchase of a
luxury home and other properties in Lima.
In December, Odebrecht acknowledged in a settlement with
prosecutors in the United States that it had distributed
hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to secure contracts
across Latin America, including $29 million for unnamed
officials in Peru from about 2005 to 2014.
Toledo's whereabouts were not immediately clear on Tuesday
and he did not respond to requests for comment. But he denied
any wrongdoing in a telephone interview on Friday from Paris
with local daily El Comercio.
The request for Toldeo's arrest is part of the regional
fallout from a far-reaching inquiry in neighboring Brazil that
could raise questions about current President Pedro Pablo
Kuczynski, who served as Toledo's finance minister and prime
minister a decade ago.
Kuczynski, a former investment banker, has denied any
involvement in Odebrecht's kickback schemes. But he is the
target, along with Toledo, of a separate, preliminary
investigation regarding a law they signed off on in 2006 that
removed legal obstacles to highway contracts awarded to
Odebrecht and other Brazilian companies.
The scandal also threatens to implicate former presidents
Alan Garcia and Ollanta Humala. Garcia has denied any wrongdoing
in recent weeks as authorities have arrested several accused of
taking bribes from Odebrecht during his 2006-2011 government.
Odebrecht, once Latin America's biggest construction
company, and an affiliated company agreed to pay about $3.5
billion in fines for its role in the massive corruption scheme
involving the state-run oil company in neighboring Brazil.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Tom Brown)