LIMA (Reuters) - Former Peruvian President Alan Garcia entered the Uruguayan embassy and applied for asylum, hours after being banned from leaving the country while under investigation for corruption, the Peruvian foreign ministry said on Sunday.
Garcia entered the embassy and home of the Uruguayan ambassador in a residential Lima neighbourhood on Saturday night and requested asylum, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.
Garcia “has requested asylum from that country, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on Diplomatic Asylum of 1954, of which Peru and Uruguay are parties,” the foreign ministry said, adding the request “should be evaluated by the government of Uruguay.”
Officials at the Uruguayan embassy did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Garcia’s asylum request came hours after a judge ruled on Saturday to prohibit the ex-president from leaving the country for 18 months while under investigation for bribes allegedly received during the construction of an electric train in Lima by Brazilian company Odebrecht.
Garcia, who mostly resides in Spain, arrived in Lima on Thursday to testify in the case before a prosecutor, who postponed the hearing and requested the former president be barred from leaving.
The prosecutor in the case, Jose Perez, also accused Garcia of receiving $100,000 for taking part in a conference in Brazil, and said the money likely came from an Odebrecht fund, used to pay out bribes in several Latin American countries.
The sweeping Odebrecht corruption scandal has implicated dozens of high-ranking officials across Latin America, who have been accused of taking bribe money in exchange for public works contracts.
On Saturday, after hearing the judge’s decision to ban his departure from the country, Garcia had said he was not afraid of the ruling and would answer all the accusations before the courts.
“All this amounts to an escalation, in a move to start fires to distract from the unemployment situation in the country,” Garcia told journalists from the doorstep of his home in Lima.
Garcia held Peru’s presidency twice, from 1985-1990 and again from 2006-2011.
It is the second time that Garcia, 69, has sought asylum in a South American country while facing corruption charges. In 1992, Garcia applied for asylum in the Colombian embassy in Lima, while he was being investigated for corruption and illicit enrichment during his first term as president.
Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Scott Squires; Editing by Chris Reese