Judge orders Peru ex-first lady, in legal investigation, home

Lima (AFP) - A judge Saturday gave Peru's ex-first lady Nadine Heredia 10 days to return to her country, where she is under investigation, or face preventative detention.

"This is a request specifically for Ms. Nadine Heredia, who is being investigated for money laundering, to return to Peru within 10 days and to quit her job at the FAO; in the event she does not return, she could face preventive detention," Judge Richard Concepcion said in an order. The FAO is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Heredia is accused along with her husband, former president Ollanta Humala, of laundering $1.5 million allegedly given to fund his 2006 and 2011 presidential campaigns.

With the investigation under way, the Rome-based FAO appointed Heredia to head its liaison office in Geneva, where the UN has its European headquarters.

Peru's foreign ministry has said it complained to the FAO's representative in Peru "against a decision that could be interpreted as interference in a judicial investigation in Peru."

Heredia had been forbidden to leave Peru while the courts investigated, but a judge recently lifted the travel ban against her.

Humala, who left office in July after his term ended, was ordered not to leave the country as of last week.

Prosecutors believe the laundered funds came from the government of Venezuela's then-president Hugo Chavez and two large construction firms in Brazil.

If found guilty, the couple face between eight and 10 years in prison.

On Friday, a UN spokeswoman said privileges and immunities are extended to staff of all UN agencies, and staff members of specialized agencies in the exercise of their functions.

Heredia is believed to be in Rome.

The judge said that since she is being investigated, she can work in Peru until the investigation has been completed. But she cannot be outside Peru, to reduce the flight risk.

Humala has suggested she was being "politically persecuted."

But President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski shot back: "she is not a political persecution victim in any way."

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger told AFP that such immunity shields high-level UN officials from arrest, detention and any criminal, civil or administrative prosecution.

If authorities wish to bring charges against such a person, they must first go through diplomatic channels to request that their employer lift their immunity, he said in an email.

"If Switzerland were to receive a request for mutual judicial assistance from Peru, or a request for an arrest to be carried out with the aim of extradition, the foreign ministry would ask the UN to lift the immunity of the person in question," he explained.