Peru's ex-presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori begins trial for money laundering

LIMA (Reuters) - Former Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori arrived in court on Monday at the start of a trial over allegations she received illegal funds from a Brazilian construction company and local firms, which could carry a jail penalty of up to 30 years.

The politician, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, faces charges of money laundering and leading a criminal organisation that received contributions for her 2011 and 2016 electoral campaigns, according to prosecutors who have been investigating her for nearly a decade.

Keiko Fujimori - who currently leads the influential Popular Force party - arrived at the courtroom alongside her lawyer and other defendants in the trial, which is being broadcast on television.

The more than 40 other defendants include former officials and militants of Fujimori's party.

She has previously said she was innocent and rejected the charges.

According to prosecutors, Popular Force was used to irregularly receive some $17 million from various contributors, such as Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht (renamed Novonor in 2020) and Peruvian financial holding company Credicorp.

The origin of this money, used for political campaigns and for the Fujimori family's own benefit, had been hidden from the electoral authorities, the prosecutor's office said.

Keiko Fujimori, 49, has run three times for the Andean country's presidency. She was last candidate in 2021, when she lost to the leftist Pedro Castillo, who was impeached and imprisoned at the end of 2022 after his attempt to illegally dissolve Congress.

The trial, which includes 2,000 prosecution and defense witnesses could take years, according to Giulliana Loza, Fujimori's lawyer.

"It is very likely that it will last until 2026", the same year as the country's next general election, she said recently.

Fujimori has twice been put in pre-trial detention amid tax investigations in relation to the case. The first time between October 2018 and November 2019 and the second between January and May 2020.

Her 85-year-old father Alberto Fujimori was sentenced in 2007 to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses during his presidency between 1990 and 2000.

He was released in December after a controversial humanitarian pardon and recently returned to politics after joining his daughter's party.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino, writing by Stéphanie Hamel; Editing by Sharon Singleton)