April 15, 2019 / 6:49 PM / 7 months ago

Peru prosecutor to ask judge to jail ex-president for three years before trial

LIMA (Reuters) - A Peruvian prosecutor said on Monday he plans to ask a judge to order former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to spend three years in jail before trial while he is being investigated for allegedly taking bribes from Brazilian builder Odebrecht SA.

Peru's former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is seen at a court, after his arrest as part of an investigation into money laundering, in Lima, Peru April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

Kuczynski, 80, has already spent five days in jail without charges, after a judge granted the prosecution’s request to order him to spend 10 days in pretrial detention last week.

The prosecution has argued Kuczynski is a flight risk and would try to obstruct the investigation unless he is jailed.

Kuczynski has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in connection with Odebrecht and said he has cooperated fully with the probe.

In a televised courtroom hearing on Kuczynski’s appeal of the 10-day jail order, prosecutor Hernan Mendoza mentioned that he plans to ask a judge to jail Kuczynski for 36 months while charges are prepared.

Mendoza will make arguments for the so-called “preventive prison” request for Kuczynski at a hearing scheduled to start on Tuesday.

In Peru, suspects can be jailed without trial for up to three years if prosecutors show evidence that would likely lead to a conviction and that the suspects would likely try to flee or obstruct their work.

Judges have ordered several prominent politicians in Peru to pretrial detention since Odebrecht sparked Latin America’s biggest graft scandal by admitting publicly in late 2016 that it had secured construction contracts across the region with bribes.

Ernesto Blume, the president of Peru’s top court the Constitutional Tribunal, has warned that preventive prison should only be granted in exceptional cases and warned judges not to overuse it.

A former Wall Street banker who renounced his U.S. citizenship to run for Peru’s presidency, Kuczynski narrowly won the 2016 election but resigned a year ago in the face of near-certain impeachment by the opposition-controlled Congress.

Prosecutors have accused Kuczynski of helping Odebrecht win contracts for a highway and an irrigation project when he was a cabinet minister in the government of former President Alejandro Toledo, in exchange for bribes disguised as consulting fees.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Chang

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