Peru ex-president, wife held over alleged corruption

Lima (AFP) - Former Peruvian president Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia have spent their first night in jail over charges of accepting illegal campaign donations from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

The couple surrendered to Judge Richard Concepcion Carhuanco late Thursday, after following their televised 21-hour marathon sentencing hearing from home.

The judge ordered 18 months of pre-trial detention for the couple "for the crime of money laundering against the interest of the state."

Humala, president from 2011-2016, said the ruling "is a confirmation of abuse of power," vowing on Twitter to face it head-on "in defense of our rights."

Defense attorneys said the couple would appeal their preventive detention on Monday and hoped for a response within 10 days.

The couple, whose three minor children were sent to live with a grandmother, spent Thursday night in holding cells in the Justice Ministry, then were transferred Friday to their respective prisons.

Humala's lawyer, Wilfredo Pedraza, said the couple were doing well so far.

"They are in good spirits, strengthened by the decision to submit to the judge's authority," he said.

Humala will be in the same prison as former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. In 2000, when Humala was an army officer, he attempted a coup against the Fujimori government; he was later pardoned.

Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in 2007 for corruption and crimes against humanity.

Four of Peru's last five presidents have faced corruption scandals.

Kuczynski said the country had earned a good reputation for its fight against corruption, having taken "drastic measures, with a great economic cost without doubt, but which are having effect."

The Odebrecht group came under scrutiny during the probe of a massive pay-to-play scheme at Brazil's state oil company Petrobras that has tarnished the names of Brazil's top politicians and business executives.

The fallout spread across Latin America when Odebrecht executives admitted in plea bargains that a secret company bribery department systematically paid multi-million-dollar bribes to win public works contracts in 12 countries in the region.

The Brazilian construction giant admitted to paying $29 million in bribes in Peru to win government building contracts between 2005 and 2014 -- a time period that also includes the presidencies of Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia.

Toledo -- president from 2001-2006 -- is currently in the United States in defiance of an 18-month pre-trial detention order for allegedly receiving $20 million in Odebrecht bribes.

One of the main prosecution claims is that Humala and Heredia accepted $3 million from Odebrecht for the 2011 presidential campaign.

Humala denies the charge, though he says that Peruvian law does not forbid foreign campaign contributions.

The prosecution also claims that Humala accepted contributions from Venezuela during his failed 2006 presidential bid.

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