LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s opposition-ruled Congress voted 55-21 late on Thursday to pass legislation that expands a raft of new financial restrictions to the local partners of scandal-plagued Brazilian builder Odebrecht.
If signed by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the law would deliver a fresh blow to Peru’s biggest construction group, Grana y Montero, just as the company’s shares have been climbing back from a sharp drop after partner Odebrecht admitted to a decade-long bribery scheme last year.
Supporters of the bill said Odebrecht’s partners might have had a hand in the graft and must be included in anti-corruption rules passed early this year that restrict the transfer of company assets abroad until civil reparations have been paid. The legislation would also seize companies’ “ill-gotten gains” made from government contracts.
Grana declined to comment on the legislation. The company has repeatedly denied knowing about or being involved in Odebrecht’s bribes and said last week that a 6-month internal probe it commissioned turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
Lawmakers in Kuczynski’s party voted against the bill and his government will likely send it back to Congress saying it violates the presumption of innocence, a former deputy justice minister in Kuczynski’s government, Edgar Carpio, told Reuters.
The justice ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The bill taps growing impatience in Peru with criminal investigations related to Odebrecht that have yet to yield any convictions or broaden to target additional companies.
“It’s been a year and nothing,” opposition lawmaker Victor Andres Belaunde said. “We’re disappointed with the lack of courage of many who don’t want to confront corruption.”
Right-wing opposition party Popular Force, which dominates Congress, has slammed Kuczynski’s government and the attorney general’s office as soft on graft.
Opposition lawmakers have demanded Kuczynski face questioning in Congress about what he knew about Odebrecht’s bribes when he was part of the cabinet of former president Alejandro Toledo, whom prosecutors allege took $20 million from the company in exchange for lucrative highway contracts.
Grana partnered with Odebrecht on two of the highway contracts and a $5 billion natural gas pipeline project that was canceled this year as the bribery scandal unfolded.
Kuczynski has denied wrongdoing and has answered lawmakers’ questions about his knowledge of Odebrecht in writing, but he has said he would not do so in a congressional commission because it would be a “circus.”
Reporting By Dante Alva and Mitra Taj