Peru’s president makes appearance in graft probe

He rejected and flatly denied false accusations, and that he "will go and face" justice
Sep 06, 2022
<p>Peru’s President Pedro Castillo is the subject of six criminal investigations. PHOTO: AFP</p>

Peru’s President Pedro Castillo is the subject of six criminal investigations. PHOTO: AFP

Peru’s embattled President Pedro Castillo, the subject of six criminal investigations, appeared before prosecutors Monday to respond to accusations that he ran a corruption network from his office.

Dressed in a red puffer jacket, Castillo arrived at the public prosecutor’s office in an official black car, which was pelted with eggs by people gathered outside as it pulled away.

Castillo, 52, spent more than two hours inside, after which he addressed a group of supporters at the presidential palace.

He said he told investigators “that not only do I reject and flatly deny these false accusations, but also that I will go and face” justice.

Castillo described the claims as “manufactured tales” and has insisted the allegations are a political ploy to unseat him.

Castillo, who has survived two impeachment attempts since taking office in July last year, was summoned in a probe concerning the dismissal of his interior minister Mariano Gonzalez in July.

Gonzalez had authorized the arrest of Castillo allies.

Castillo was also questioned about alleged influence peddling in the purchase of fuel by state company Petroperu.

‘Proclaimed his innocence’

The prosecutor’s office has opened six investigations in all against Castillo, including for alleged graft and plagiarization of his university thesis.

“The president denied each of the charges, proclaimed his innocence,” attorney Benji Espinoza told reporters.

He added that Castillo had not answered any questions, invoking his right to remain silent apart from making a general statement to deny the allegations.

A scheduled appearance by Castillo’s 49-year-old wife Lilia Paredes, accused of criminal conspiracy and money laundering as part of an alleged graft network headed by her husband – was cancelled at the last minute, her lawyer said.

Castillo has appeared before investigators twice before on charges related to alleged bribes in public works contracts and alleged irregular military promotions.

A sixth investigation was opened last month after police raided the presidential palace in Lima, where the president resides, as well as his private home in a rural part of Peru in search of his sister-in-law Yenifer Paredes, who later gave herself up.

Three others – businessmen brothers Hugo and Anggi Espino, and mayor Jose Nenil Medina of the Cajamarca region where Castillo is from – have also been arrested, all for alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy.

Castillo, serving a five-year term that ends in 2026, cannot be tried while in office.

The 52-year-old rural school teacher and trade unionist unexpectedly took power from Peru’s traditional political elite in elections last year.

But just over a year later, opinion polls show that three-quarters of Peruvians disapprove of Castillo’s management of the country.

Peru is no stranger to instability: it had three different presidents in five days in 2020, and five presidents and three legislatures since 2016.

But six open investigations into a sitting president is unprecedented.

peru

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