November 14, 2017 / 5:52 PM / a year ago

Ex-Odebrecht CEO says hired Peru president as consultant -reports

LIMA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Marcelo Odebrecht, the jailed former head of Brazilian builder Odebrecht SA, has told prosecutors that the scandal-plagued company hired Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to work as a consultant a decade ago, daily newspaper El Comercio and other local media reported Tuesday.

Reuters could not verify what Odebrecht told Peruvian prosecutors in a meeting last week in Curitiba, Brazil, where the former chief executive has been providing details on bribes that the company paid to politicians across the region.

According to El Comercio, Odebrecht said the company hired Kuczynski to mend ties with him after he had opposed highway contracts awarded to Odebrecht SA in 2005, when Kuczynski served in the cabinet of former president Alejandro Toledo.

Daily newspaper La Republica and news website IDL-Reporteros also reported that Odebrecht told prosecutors that Kuczynski was hired as a consultant after Toledo’s 2001-2006 term.

The attorney general’s office and Kuczynski’s spokesperson declined to comment.

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker whose term ends in 2021, has previously denied taking money from Odebrecht SA or knowing about bribes that the firm’s former officials said they gave to Toledo, who denies the allegations.

The reports could weaken Kuczynski’s hand further as he tries to govern alongside a Congress dominated by opposition lawmakers who portray him as an out-of-touch lobbyist.

Kuczynski’s approval rating slipped to 27 percent in an Ipsos poll this month amid a fresh escalation in tensions with the opposition, which ousted his cabinet in September.

Odebrecht SA acknowledged publicly a year ago that it paid $29 million in bribes to officials in Peru over a decade spanning three presidencies, part of a massive graft scheme it deployed across much of Latin America and parts of Africa.

Prosecutors in Peru have been preparing criminal charges against former presidents Toledo and Ollanta Humala related to Odebrecht SA.

Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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