LIMA, Peru >> Former Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori was detained today as part of a money-laundering investigation, the latest political leader in the Andean nation to face scrutiny over alleged corruption.
Photos of Fujimori covering her cuffed hands with a black jacket and escorted by police officers circulated on social media to the surprise of Peruvians who thought the powerful daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori would never see the inside of a jail cell.
The conservative politician was taken into custody after she showed up at the chief prosecutor’s office to provide testimony into an ongoing probe into dubious financial contributions to her 2011 presidential campaign. She will initially be held for 10 days.
“They’ve persecuted me for 18 years and have so far not shown a single proof,” Fujimori, 43, said in a defiant handwritten letter written from inside a police station and later posted on her Twitter account. “They aren’t going to cut off our political project…..we must raise our voices!”
The judge handling the case also ordered the arrest of 19 other people, including several former ministers in her father’s government and senior officials in her own Popular Force party.
According to the arrest order, Fujimori is suspected of leading a criminal network within her party that received $1.2 million in illegal payments from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has admitted in the U.S. to paying $788 million in bribes to politicians throughout Latin America. The 184-page document, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, cites testimony from the former head of Odebrecht’s operations in Peru.
The Peruvian probe was launched in 2016, amid another presidential run by Keiko Fujimori, and was immediately by her many supporters as politically motivated.
“This isn’t justice. It’s politics and it’s abusive,” Fujimori’s American husband, Mark Villanella, who had also been under investigation in the same case, told reporters outside the prosecutor’s office.
But many Peruvians, including current President Martin Vizcarra, have been cheering on the house cleaning, fed up with decades of entrenched corruption behind convictions or investigations against all five living former presidents.
The judge investigating Fujimori has also ordered the arrest of two former presidents, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo, for receiving money from Odebrecht. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Fujimori lost to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski by fewer than 50,000 votes in the 2016 presidential runoff. But her party emerged in a kingmaking role with a majority of seats in congress as many Peruvians were nostalgic for the economic boom that coincided with her father’s iron-fisted rule between 1990 and 2000.
However, the younger Fujimori’s power has waned under Vizcarra, who stepped into the presidency after Kuczynski resigned earlier this year.
Last week, a judge ordered the elder Fujimori return to jail to finish a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses. Kuczynski had pardoned the former strongman last Christmas eve on humanitarian grounds in what was widely seen as a closed-door deal to stave off threats of impeachment.
Vizcarra, despite having little representation in congress, has also managed to outmaneuver Fujimori’s party by pushing through congress plans for a December referendum to impose term limits on lawmakers amid other anti-corruption measures.