By Cecilia Remón
Julia Príncipe Trujillo, head of the Prosecutor’s Office for Laundering of Illegal Assets, part of the Ministry of Justice, found out on Oct. 20 through the press that she had been dismissed from the post she held since 2007, for having made comments about the case of Nadine Heredia, wife of President Ollanta Humala. Heredia is under investigation for alleged laundering of illegal assets.
On Aug. 19, Príncipe Trujillo made comments regarding four notebooks that apparently belong to Heredia. The notebooks listed in detail the monetary income and activities of the Nationalist Party, led by Heredia. The notebooks had been stolen from the presidential couple’s home by a former housekeeper and handed to former Congressman Alvaro Gutiérrez, who in turn sent them to the prosecutor.
The existence of the notebooks was made public during a television program on Aug. 17. The notebooks allegedly revealed deals with individuals who are accused of corruption, including Brazilian businessmen linked to the “Lava Jato” case. Heredia immediately denied that such notebooks belonged to her.
“The content of the notebooks will be incorporated into the investigation,” Príncipe Trujillo told reporters. “Obviously they should be evaluated. There is a lot of information that should be assessed and investigated.”
“The information is relevant to the investigation. The information is also linked closely to Nadine Heredia, especially and mainly I would say, to party activities and expenditures in favor of the group she heads,” added the prosecutor when she submitted the notebooks to the Special Prosecutor for Laundering of Illegal Assets of the General Attorney’s Office, after making a request for an investigation.
The statements were not well received by the presidential couple or by those surrounding them, particularly Justice Minister Gustavo Adrianzén and President of the Council of Ministers, Pedro Cateriano.
After learning of the prosecutor’s dismissal, Adrianzén said that the prosecutor had engaged in an “openly inappropriate behavior” relative to her function to make statements to the press without authorization. “The post of prosecutor is a position of trust, and this trust is granted and it can be withdrawn,” he said.
Social and media pressure forced Adrianzén to present his irrevocable resignation that same day. He was replaced on Oct. 21 by Aldo Vásquez, seventh justice minister of the current government.
Príncipe Trujillo had been responsible for overseeing corruption cases such as the case of Rodolfo Orellana, who headed an extended network of land and properties trafficking, and Comunicore case regarding millionaire payments the Municipality of Lima made to a ghost company that involves the current mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio. Also, Mark Vito Villanella was under investigation for illegal enrichment. Villanella is the husband of presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori Higuchi, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) who since 2007 is serving a sentence of 25 years in prison for corruption and violation of human rights. With 30% of voting intent, Fujimori Higuchi has the lead in the current polls before the presidential election that will be held in April 2016.
Considered the motivator behind Humala’s shift to the right, Heredia enjoyed great popularity during the first years of the present government, even more than Humala. However, her media overexposure, constant presence at official events, her influence in government affairs that do not concern her, her giving orders to members of the Cabinet and ruling party lawmakers, among others, has led the media and public to get tired.
Humala came to power with 55 percent approval rate, but currently he only has 12 percent. Heredia, whose popularity at the beginning of the administration reached 65 percent, now only has a 10 percent approval rate.
The media began to investigate Heredia and those around her. The purchasing of luxury goods through the credit card of a friend, travel to exotic destinations, fake contracts, among other things, were revealed and chipped at her public image.
However, what accelerated her popularity downfall was her link with Martín Belaúnde Lossio, former adviser to the presidential couple since 2006. Belaúnde Lossio created false contracts to justify income of thousands of dollars. In May 2014, a court issued an arrest warrant against him. He fled the country on Dec. 1 and was captured on May 28 in Bolivia and extradited to Peru.
Today Belaunde Lossio is imprisoned on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, collusion and illegal association for his links to a criminal organization led by César Álvarez, former president of the Regional Government of Ancash, in the center-west of the country, who is also imprisoned for illicit enrichment in the case called “La Centralita”. His company Antalsis also benefitted from the current government with millions of bids.
Although Heredia has managed to stop some investigations against her in the judiciary, on Oct. 20 the Constitutional Court granted an appeal by the Attorney General’s Office to continue investigating the first lady and those surrounding her.
Just a few months away from the presidential and legislative elections, with a first round scheduled for Apr. 10, the political scenario is bleak. In addition to the economic slowdown as a result of the fall in international prices of metals, add to the list of issues the atomization and widespread corruption in political parties.
Analyst Fernando Tuesta told Latinamerica Press that “there are currently 21 registered parties, but to participate in the elections and avoid losing their registration they can form alliances, which would reduce the number of parties to 10 or 12. If they do not receive 5 percent of the valid votes in the legislative election, they are eliminated. Many of them are small parties without a chance and they can avoid disappearing by forming alliances.”
However, “in the absence of public financing, corruption seeps into campaign finance,” he said.”Campaigns are expensive. If there is no public funding, there is the risk of resorting to illegal or ill-gotten money.”
In early October, Congress did not take advantage of the opportunity to discuss transparency in political party financing.
“Today there is no way to know exactly where the resources for election campaigns come from, and to sustain these organizations,” told reporters Walter Albán, director of Proética, Peruvian chapter of Transparency International.
José Ugaz, president of Transparency International, was outright in saying that “corruption in Peru is a structural problem. Organized crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal mining, illegal logging, move a lot of money. The 59 percent of voters vote for candidates who are visibly corrupt but do works.”
“There is a lack of political will in Peru to face corruption,” Ugaz said. “Cases become known because of investigative reporting or disclosures from those who are affected.”