Peruvian Ex-President Charged with Embezzlement
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ The attorney general on Friday charged former President Alan Garcia with embezzlement, the first time in Peru’s 170-year history that a former head of state had faced trial.
Attorney General Pedro Mendez brought a charge of ″illicit enrichment″ against Garcia related to allegations that he used $500,000 in state funds to build three houses in Lima, said Mendez’ spokesman, Cesar Noya.
Noya said Mendez dismissed accusations that Garcia had stolen $50 million from the Treasury and that Garcia followed illegal procedures in the purchase of 12 French jet fighters in 1985.
The announcement of the charges came after a year-long congressional investigation into Garcia’s finances. He has repeatedly denied all accusations, saying his enemies are trying to prevent from running for president in 1995.
Garcia said Friday that financial records would prove he did not steal.
″The charge is imprecise. And, in a certain form, it’s a concession to the pressure of the parties that have converted vengence and hate into political weapons,″ he said.
Garcia, 42, has said he will not run for president again, but most Peruvians are convinced he will because of the lack of strong opponent. He is seen as a favorite despite the ruinous economic policies of his 1985-90 administration.
Under Garcia, prices rose by 2 million percent. He earned the enmity of world financiers by his refusal to pay Peru’s $22 billion foreign debt.
Sources at the attorney general’s office say the Supreme Court has the right to turn down the case if they believe the charge against Garcia is unfounded.
Supreme Court Judge Roger Salas, a Garcia appointee, will hear the case, and few believe Garcia will be convicted. In his final year in office, Garcia crammed the Supreme Court with appointees from his populist Aprista party.
If found guilty, Garcia could face up to seven years in prison.
The case against Garcia was sent to the Attorney General in mid-October after the Senate stripped him of his the immunity he enjoyed as former head of state.
A congressional panel headed by independent Congressman Fernando Olivera accused Garcia of shifting $50 million in state funds into private bank accounts via the discredited Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
Garcia defended himself before Congress in September and presented bank records that weakened the allegations.
He was also accused with having gained from a 1985 decision to reduce a purchase of French Mirage 200 jet fighters.
Peru ordered 26 jets but bought only 12, and investigators alleged Garcia was paid off for selling rights to the other 14 jets to a third country.