LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said on Sunday that ex-president Alejandro Toledo, accused of receiving millions in bribes from embattled construction firm Odebrecht S.A., betrayed his country and must return to Peru to face justice.
Prosecutors are preparing an arrest warrant for Toledo after discovering evidence that implicates him in $20 million in bribes that Brazil’s Odebrecht has acknowledged distributing to win a contract during his 2001-2006 government. According to a source in Peru’s prosecutor’s office, authorities detected $11 million that was allegedly transferred to an associate of Toledo, leading investigators to raid Toledo’s house in Lima on Saturday.
The ex-president, who has denied taking any bribes, was in France on Saturday, though his current whereabouts are unknown.
“Very hurt by this news about ex-president Toledo. It’s a betrayal of the Peruvian people, and it’s a betrayal of his colleagues that worked so hard,” Kuczynski said in comments to Colombia’s W Radio, which were distributed by the president’s office.
“This is very lamentable. He must straighten himself out and come back to Peru and answer what the investigators are going to ask him.”
Kuczynski, who was Toledo’s finance minister and prime minister, also reiterated previous declarations that he was not involved in the negotiations between Odebrecht and Toledo that are being probed.
The current president is the subject of a separate preliminary investigation regarding a law he signed off on in 2006 that removed legal obstacles to highway contracts awarded to Odebrecht and other Brazilian companies. He denies any wrongdoing.
In addition to Peru, Odebrecht has acknowledged doling out hundreds of millions in bribes to win public work contracts throughout Latin America, spurring inquiries from Argentina to Panama.
Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Bernard Orr