November 14, 2017 / 11:38 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Ex-Odebrecht CEO says hired Peru president as consultant -report

(Adds Kuczynski’s denial, context)

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

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker whose term ends in 2021, denied the allegations as opposition lawmakers demanded he submit to questioning in a congressional committee.

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 family-owned company paid to the region’s politicians.

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. Odebrecht also said the company might have funded Kuczynski’s failed 2011 presidential bid in keeping with its practice of bankrolling leading candidates, the paper reported.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Kuczynski said he never had any professional ties with Odebrecht SA or received campaign funding from the company. “I’m absolutely certain of my actions,” Kuczynski posted on Twitter.

The allegations threaten to weaken Kuczynski’s hand further as he struggles to govern alongside a Congress dominated by the right-wing populist party Popular Force, which is led by his former electoral rival Keiko Fujimori.

Congress ousted Kuczynski’s cabinet in September and opposition lawmakers have slammed him for sending written responses about his ties to Odebrecht SA instead of answering questions in an investigatory committee.

“The country deserves to know the truth. What is he afraid of?” opposition lawmaker Ursula Letona tweeted.

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 are preparing criminal charges related to Odebrecht SA against former presidents Toledo and Ollanta Humala, who have denied wrongdoing. Humala is in pre-trial detention and Peru is seeking Toledo’s extradition from the United States.

Kuczynski has previously denied knowing about bribes that former Odebrecht officials said they gave to Toledo.

Kuczynski’s approval rating slipped to 27 percent in an Ipsos poll published Sunday.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang

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