Peru ex-president Kuczynski ordered into pre-trial house arrest

FILE PHOTO - Peru's former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is seen at a court, after his arrest as part of an investigation into money laundering, in Lima, Peru April 16, 2019. Picture taken April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

LIMA (Reuters) - Former Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is to spend three years under house arrest while corruption charges are prepared against him for allegedly taking bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, the government said on Saturday.

Earlier this month Kuczynski had been ordered to up to three years in pre-trial jail. The judgment was softened due to health problems faced by the 80-year-old former leader, according to a tweet sent by the Public Ministry. Kuczynski’s lawyers had been arguing for house arrest on grounds of poor health.

Kuczynski, once a Wall Street banker, denies wrongdoing.

The house arrest ruling came days after another former Peruvian president, Alan Garcia, committed suicide to avoid arrest in connection with the sprawling Odebrecht scandal.

Under Peruvian law, criminal suspects can be held in jail before trial for up to three years if prosecutors show evidence that they would likely be convicted and would probably try to flee or obstruct the investigation unless detained.

Peru’s four most recent presidents and the leader of the opposition have been ordered into pre-trial detention in connection with Odebrecht since the company admitted in late 2016 that it paid some $30 million in bribes to Peruvian politicians in exchange for public works contracts.

Reporting by Marco Aquino, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Toby Chopra