After being dismissed by Congress this Monday, the president of Peru, Martín Vizcarra, declared that he had “a clear conscience.”
“I leave the government palace as I entered two years and eight months ago, with my head held high,” he said.
Vizcarra succumbed to the second impeachment against him that is held in Peru in just two months, after managing to get out of the first, opened by an alleged crime of influence peddling.
And although it seemed that the motion would not have the necessary support this time either, different reports in local media in recent weeks in relation to alleged corruption by Vizcarra ended up swinging the balance.
The accusations against Vizcarra -who denies all accusations and has not been imputed by the justice of his country- are part of the investigation of the case known as “the Construction Club”, for allegedly receiving bribes when he was governor in Moquegua, in the south of the country, in 2013 and 2014.
“The ‘Construction Club’ is the name given to a cartel of construction companies, Peruvian and foreign companies, who were dedicated to winning public tenders for large infrastructures, many of them tendered by the Ministry of Transport, by paying bribes to authorities “, explains the collaborator of BBC Mundo and host of Latina Televisión, Martín Riepl.
How it worked
The club would have operated in the following way: every time there was a tender project, the companies communicated with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, where a public official arranged the tender in exchange for a bribe, explains the Corruption Observatory of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in a 2019 report.
The bribery involved between 1% and 3% of the value of the contracts, that they were for millionaire values. The companies agreed before each contest on which of them should be the winner.
The company that achieved “the conquest” of the project was in charge of paying the bribe to the officials and a compensation percentage to which it deliberately lost, or “accompaniment.”
The Club was made up of some of the main companies in terms of the country’s infrastructure.
In its beginnings, it was formed only by Peruvian companies and focused on road works, but with the arrival of the boom Economic, in the decade of the 2000, it was extended to other types of public works.
And the Peruvians were joined by other Brazilian companies, such as the now world famous Odebrecht, involved in millionaire corruption cases. in several Latin American countries, although with a less leading role in this case.
However, in Peru other investigations related to the Odebrecht case the Lava Jato have reached all the former presidents of the country since 2001: Alejandro Toledo (pending if his extradition in the United States is approved), Alan Garcia (he committed suicide when he was going to be arrested for his connection with Odebrecht), Ollanta Humala (investigated for payments from the construction company to its campaign) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (under house arrest).
Also to the opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is in house arrest for financing his electoral campaigns.
Years of operations
The Peruvian authorities are still unclear from when this cartel operated.
The former head of Odebrecht in Peru, Jorge Barata, told the investigators of the Lava Jato case in Brazil that he had operations from 2001 to 2012.
However, Raymundo Trinidade Serra, Odebrecht’s former manager of institutional relations, declared before Peruvian prosecutors transferred to Brazil that the club had existed at least since 1996.
The investigations into the “Construction Club” by the “Lava Jato special team” -created in Peru to undertake the investigations derived from the Odebrecht case- began with the statements of the former representative of the Brazilian company, Renato Ribeiro Bortoletti, after the prosecution reached an agreement with the firm.
It was Bortoletti who, with his information, allowed the opening in 2017 of a direct investigation of Peruvian companies on events that until that moment were only rumors.
Several companies have recognized their responsibility, availing themselves of the figure of effective collaboration.
And, according to the special prosecutor’s office, the process against two others is nearing completion, with sentences expected early next year.
“There are very few final sentences, but this is due to the slowness of justice and not to the lack of evidence,” says Riepl.
And several years later, it has now been a member of this team, the prosecutor Germán Juárez, who opened on October 16 of this year a Preliminary investigation against Vizcarra for the crimes of bribery and collusion against the State.
A preliminary investigation
The investigations are based on the contributions of six would-be effective collaborators, other witnesses and various documents, according to the special prosecutor’s office.
Vizcarra, according to this, would have received a total of 2,300,000 soles (more than US $ 600,000) in exchange for the award of two public works when he was regional governor of Moquegua: the Lomas de Ilo -an irrigation work- and the Regional Hospital of Moquegua, said the Peruvian media Trade.
The companies that allegedly paid him the bribes are the consortium called ICCGSA-Incot, for the construction of the hospital; and the Obrainsa consortium, for the Lomas de Ilo, according to El Comercio also reported.
ICCGSA and Obrainsa are some of the companies investigated in the Club de la Construcción case, according to Peruvian media.
However so far, as Riepl recalls, Vizcarra has not been accused of anything, and for the moment the testimonies against him have to be corroborated by a judge.
The dismissal of Vizcarra for a case in which he appears as investigated it’s controversial and divisive in a country where many other congressmen, ministers and high-level officials are also being investigated for other alleged cases of corruption.
“I have been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office in the preliminary stages of an investigation, there is no convincing proof nor a proof of flagrancy of a crime and there will not be, because I have not collected any bribes, “Vizcarra defended himself in his speech against the vacancy motion.
“Here a vacancy process has started without investigating or contrasting absolutely anything. Only with the version of aspiring effective collaborators,” he said, according to the RPP news page.
For now, the case ended his presidential term, but it is too early to know if it will have consequences in court.
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