| LIMA, March 31
LIMA, March 31 Public prosecutors in Peru have
opened a preliminary probe into the country's former President
Alan Garcia as part of a far-reaching inquiry into bribes that
Brazilian builder Odebrecht SA has acknowledged
distributing to win local contracts, a source in the attorney
general's office said Friday.
Prosecutors are investigating whether Garcia was involved in
potential graft in the awarding of a $400 million contract for a
metro line in the capital Lima during his second term, said the
source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to comment.
Garcia's representatives did not immediately respond to
requests for comment but Garcia has previously denied any
involvement in Odebrecht's kickback schemes in Peru, saying he
feels "ashamed" that corrupt officials might have been a part of
"If the prosecutor deems it appropriate, I welcome any
investigation and I will go to any summons to collaborate,"
Garcia said on Twitter after local daily El Comercio reported
earlier on Friday that he was under investigation.
In December, Odebrecht admitted publicly that it doled out
hundreds of millions in bribes to unnamed authorities across
Latin America, including $29 million to win contracts in Peru
over a decade-long period spanning three presidencies.
The former head of Odebrecht in Peru, Jorge Barata, is
cooperating with prosecutors as a witness and the company has
vowed to provide any relevant documents or statements.
A special prosecutor in the justice ministry, Katherine
Ampuero, had asked prosecutors in the attorney general's office
to include Garcia in its inquiry into Odebrecht's bribes, saying
evidence exists that could lead to a conviction.
Garcia is a skilled orator and political heavyweight who has
governed Peru twice, first in the 1980s as a protectionist and
then as a free-market proponent from 2006-2011, when Odebrecht
said it bribed a high-level government official in exchange for
help winning a $400 million transportation contract.
Garcia's predecessor, Alejandro Toledo, is wanted in Peru
for preventive jailing after prosecutors accused him of taking
$20 million in bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for help
winning two lucrative highway contracts.
Toledo has denied wrongdoing and refused to turn himself in,
saying he has not been given due process. Peru wants the United
States, where Toledo is believed to be in California, to arrest
and extradite him.
(Reporting by Teresa Cespdes, Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by