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Peruvian judge orders arrest of ex-President Kuczynski in bribery probe

 Peruvian judge orders arrest of ex-President Kuczynski in bribery probe

LIMA (Reuters) - A Peruvian judge ordered the arrest of former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Wednesday while also authorizing a search of his properties as part of a probe into a bribery scheme linked to scandal-plagued Brazilian builder Odebrecht.

Kuczynski, 80, was taken from his home by police to an official medical installation and could be jailed afterwards, local broadcasters RPP and Canal N reported.

He was to be held for a period of 10 days, according to a judicial resolution.

Kuczynski called his arrest "arbitrary" on Twitter as a car left his sprawling home in Lima's financial district, where crowds of journalists had gathered.

"I've never fled justice," Kuczynski wrote on Twitter. "This is a very tough moment for me but I will face it with the fortitude of knowing I only longed for a better country."

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 a highway contract and an irrigation contract when he was a cabinet minister in the government of former President Alejandro Toledo, in exchange for bribes disguised as consulting fees.

According to Wednesday's judicial resolution, Kuczynski's secretary and driver were also ordered to spend 10 days in jail.

Odebrecht sparked Latin America's biggest graft scandal by admitting publicly in late 2016 that it had secured lucrative contracts across the region by bribing officials. Since then, Peruvian judges have ordered several politicians, including Toledo, to be jailed before trial.

Toledo denies wrongdoing and is fighting extradition to Peru from the United States.

After initially denying having any ties to Odebrecht, Kuczynski acknowledged that his consulting firm had been hired by Odebrecht before he became a minister. He said he relinquished control of the consulting firm before he took office, however, and denied the payments were bribes.

Kuczynski said he had been cooperating with prosecutors. Authorities barred him from leaving Peru shortly after he resigned the presidency, and later froze his bank accounts.

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

Kuczynski's former vice president, Martin Vizcarra, is now president and has made the fight against corruption the centerpiece of his government.

But the ruling party slammed Kuczynski's arrest order as "excessive and disproportionate" on Twitter and politicians from other parties also criticized it.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Guadalupe Pardo; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Tom Brown)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Apr 11, 2019 02:06:40 IST

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