Odebrecht paid firms linked to Peru's Kuczynski $4.8 million - document

By Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes
FILE PHOTO: Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski speaks during an interview at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit in Lima, Peru August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/ File photo

By Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes

LIMA (Reuters) - Brazilian builder Odebrecht transferred $4.8 million to companies linked to Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski between 2004 and 2012, some of which was paid to a company Kuczynski controlled when he held senior government roles, according to a document the company sent to Congress.

In a brief recorded message broadcast on local radio programme RPP after lawmakers made the contents of the document public on Wednesday, Kuczynski denied wrongdoing but did not deny the transfers took place.

Kuczynski's office declined further comment.

Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] declined to comment. A source in the company who spoke on condition of anonymity said the document seen by Reuters was authentic.

The transfers shown in the document contradicted Kuczynski's previous denials about his ties to Odebrecht and prompted some lawmakers in the opposition-controlled Congress to call for his resignation.

Odebrecht is at the centre of Latin America's biggest graft scandal and has admitted to paying about $30 million in bribes to officials in Peru over a decade, including during the 2001-2006 term of ex-President Alejandro Toledo, when Kuczynski was finance minister and prime minister.

After Odebrecht's public acknowledgement a year ago, Kuczynski repeatedly denied ever taking money from Odebrecht or having any professional connections to the company.

But on Saturday Kuczynski announced on a local radio programme that he once worked as a financial adviser for an Odebrecht project when he did not hold public office; he did not mention the company that paid him.


"I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE"

According to the document sent to Congress, Odebrecht made seven transfers totalling about $780,000 to Kuczynski's company Westfield Capital Ltd between 2004 and 2007, including about $60,000 when Kuczynski worked in Toledo's Cabinet and the government awarded several contracts to Odebrecht. Later, between 2008 and 2012, Odebrecht paid about $4 million to First Capital Inversiones Y Asesorias.

Kuczynski has previously said that First Capital belongs to his friend and Chilean business partner, Gerardo Sepulveda. Kuczynski was the sole director of Westfield Capital, according to his sworn declaration on the presidency's website.

Kuczynski has not appeared in public since his radio interview on Saturday. He said on RPP on Wednesday that he had decided to heed Congress' repeated calls to explain any connections he had with Odebrecht to an investigative committee.

"I've never favoured any company. I'm willing to clarify everything that needs to be clarified before Congress and prosecutors because I have nothing to hide," Kuczynski said on RPP, without taking any questions from journalists.

A spokesman for Popular Force, the opposition party that holds a majority of seats in Peru's single-chamber Congress, slammed Kuczynski.

"The country, Mr. Kuczynski, is tired of your lies and doesn't want any more explanations. The country hasn't just lost its trust in you, but in your government as well," Daniel Salaverry, the spokesman, told a news conference.

In a televised plenary session late on Wednesday, hardline Popular Force lawmaker Hector Becerril called for Kuczynski to resign, calling the transferred funds "camouflaged bribes." An independent lawmaker also called for Kuczynski to step down.

A source in the attorney general's office said prosecutors investigating Odebrecht in Peru were probing Kuczynski's relationship with the company but could not name him as a suspect until his term and presidential immunity end.

Toledo, the former president under whom Kuczynski worked, has been accused of taking a $20 million bribe from Odebrecht in exchange for help in securing lucrative highway contracts. Toledo has denied the charges. Authorities in Peru are seeking his extradition from the United States.



(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes; Additional reporting by Marco Aquino; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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