March 1, 2018 / 11:42 PM / a year ago

Peru prosecutors search business group's offices in graft probe

LIMA, March 1 (Reuters) - Peruvian prosecutors searched the offices of Peru's largest business association on Thursday in a graft investigation into Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said.

The search came a day after the former head of Odebrecht's operations in Peru, Jorge Barata, told prosecutors that he had given money to the 2011 presidential campaigns of several politicians, according to Giuliana Loza, a lawyer for Keiko Fujimori, who lost a bid for the presidency and is now the leader of Peru's most powerful opposition party.

Prosecutors have said they are looking into whether Odebrecht's unreported campaign contributions were part of money laundering and graft schemes.

Brazilian builder Odebrecht has been at the center of Latin America's biggest graft scandal since acknowledging in a late 2016 leniency deal that it had bribed officials in a dozen countries, including Peru.

Barata, who is a state's witness, also testified that he had given money for political campaigning to the National Confederation of Private Business Institutions (Confiep), Peru's biggest business lobby, Loza told journalists on Wednesday.

Confiep denied reports by local media that it had taken money from Barata to put toward Keiko Fujimori's presidential campaign.

"Confiep, as a business association, does not support campaigns or political parties," it said in a statement, adding that it was cooperating with prosecutors.

Fujimori has denied that any money from Barata or Odebrecht ever entered her campaign.

The Odebrecht scandal nearly toppled President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in December after Congress revealed that he had not disclosed his past business ties to the company. (Reporting By Marco Aquino Writing By Mitra Taj)

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