The lead prosecutor in an ongoing Peruvian corruption case urged a judge Thursday to send presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori back to preventive prison in connection with an ongoing corruption case, even as votes continue to be tallied.
Fujimori has dismissed the request as absurd. “The prosecutor knows where I live, I’m not going to flee,” she said.
She currently trails Pedro Castillo, a high school teacher who has never held public office, in a knife-edge race to be the next president of Peru. Turnout in Sunday’s election was 77%.
Jose Domingo Perez, the lead prosecutor in what is called the Odebrecht corruption case, argued Thursday that Fujimori had violated restrictions in the case, which has been under investigation since 2018. According to state-run news agency Andina, Perez accused Fujimori of breaching “the rule of conduct” that prohibits her from communicating with case witnesses.
During a press conference Wednesday, Keiko Fujimori was seen with Miguel Torres, an Odebrecht case witness, according to Andina. Torres was introduced as the lawyer and spokesman for Fujimori’s party, Fuerza Popular.
Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, has been the subject of a long-running corruption investigation since 2018. Prosecutors recently asked a court for a 30-year jail term on charges linked to organized crime and money laundering. She has denied the allegations and has not been formally charged.
She was released from preventive prison for the second time in five months in May 2020 under conditions that included a ban on communicating with others involved in the investigation.
If Fujimori wins the election, the investigation into her would be suspended until her mandate ends in 2026, prosecutors in the case have said.
At the last presidential elections in 2016, Fujimori lost to former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski with 49.9% of the votes against 50.1% for Kuczynski.
Since then, Peru has witnessed great political volatility. Last year, interim President Francisco Sagasti became the country’s fourth president in less than five years after Congress voted to oust popular ex-president Martin Vizcarra and Vizcarra’s replacement, Manuel Merino, resigned.
Peruvians are most concerned about how the country will recover from the pandemic, which has exposed rampant inequality that persists despite significant increases in gross domestic product (GDP) and decreases in average poverty rates in recent decades.
Both candidates have proposed reforms related to the key mining sector, but Fujimori is relying on government benefit packages to attract voters while Castillo has floated structural changes to the economy.