LIMA (Reuters) - Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Thursday denied any involvement in $20 million in bribes that Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht SA said it paid to an unnamed official to win a public works contract in 2005, when he was prime minister.
In a massive plea deal signed in the United States on Wednesday, Odebrecht said it distributed a total of $29 million in bribes to unnamed officials in Peru during the terms of three presidencies from about 2005 to 2014.
Kuczynski, a 78-year-old former investment banker who was prime minister and finance minister in 2005, said Odebrecht employees must be brought to Peru to explain whom it bribed to secure public work contracts.
“It clearly needs to be investigated,” Kuczynski told reporters. “I can guarantee that I didn’t receive anything or do anything.”
Earlier this month, Peru’s attorney general’s office reopened a preliminary graft inquiry into whether Kuczynski and former President Alejandro Toledo helped Odebrecht win infrastructure contracts by passing a law that declared highway projects of national interest.
“I signed off on a law that Congress passed. That’s not a crime,” said Kuczynski, who assumed the presidency five months ago.
Odebrecht has an outsized presence in Peru, where its donation of a small version of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue dots Lima’s skyline. In the past decade it has won public work contracts worth more than $10 billion.
Kuczynski rejected calls from some to kick Odebrecht out of Peru, saying some of its managers were guilty but not the company as a whole - despite its guilty plea.
Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Paul Simao and Leslie Adler