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President of Peru slams raids in luxury watch investigation

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte is facing a corruption probe after a news outlet questioned how she acquired her luxury watches (Juan Pablo AZABACHE)
Peruvian President Dina Boluarte is facing a corruption probe after a news outlet questioned how she acquired her luxury watches (Juan Pablo AZABACHE)

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte slammed raids on her home and office  Saturday after authorities carried out overnight searches in a corruption probe centered on Rolex watches she has been wearing publicly.

Television footage showed agents with a metal bar breaking down the door of Boluarte's home in a dramatic twist to a case that erupted several weeks ago amid questions over whether she has enriched herself illegally while serving in the government.

The very unpopular Boluarte, in power since December 2022, has not explained how she got the watches, saying only that were the fruit of hard work.

"The measure taken early this morning is arbitrary, disproportionate and abusive," a defiant Boluarte, who was at the presidential palace as agents raided her home, said in an address to the nation.

A lawyer for Boluarte said police found watches in her office at the government palace.

"They did not take them away. They were noted and photographed. There were around 10, and among them were some nice ones but I cannot say if they were Rolex," attorney Mateo Castaneda told radio station RPP.

Boluarte has said she will not address the issue publicly until she has given a sworn statement to prosecutors on April 5.

Authorities launched an investigation this month after news program La Encerrona drew attention to pictures of Boluarte sporting luxury watches at public events while serving as vice president under then-president Pedro Castillo and as development minister in 2021.

The program said it examined a period that ended in December 2022 when Castillo was impeached and arrested and Boluarte took power.

Saturday's raid, a joint operation between the police and the prosecutor's office, was broadcast on local television channel Latina.

Government agents could be seen surrounding the house in the Surquillo District of Lima while officers blocked oncoming traffic.

The raid was requested by the public prosecutor and authorized by the Supreme Court of Preparatory Investigation.

It came after prosecutors refused Boluarte's request for more time to respond to a subpoena demanding she furnish proof of purchase for her watches.

Prosecutors also want to know if she has reported the Rolex watches on her income statements.

- 'Clean hands' -

Already facing declining approval ratings -- currently around 10 percent -- Boluarte was plunged into a fresh political crisis by the probe into whether she has illegally enriched herself while in office.

If she is indicted in the case, a trial could not take place until after her term ends in July 2026 or she is impeached, according to the constitution.

Congress potentially could seek her dismissal on grounds of "moral incapacity," but that would require the unlikely cooperation of the right-leaning groups that control the parliament -- and are Boluarte's main support -- with their left-wing rivals.

The government comptroller has announced it would review Boluarte's asset declarations from the past two years to search for any irregularities.

Boluarte has staunchly defended herself.

"I entered the Government Palace with clean hands, and I will leave it with clean hands," she said last week.

Responding to questions about how she could afford such expensive timepieces on a public salary, the former lawyer said they were a product of working hard since she was 18 years old.

Boluarte became Peru's first woman president after leftist leader Castillo tried to dissolve Congress and rule by decree, leading to his quick ouster and arrest.

Violent protests demanding Boluarte step down and fresh elections be held followed, with almost 50 people killed in the ensuing crackdown. Prosecutors are investigating her on charges that security forces used excessive and lethal force.

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