Facing arrest, Peru ex-president Garcia kills himself

2019-04-17 17:52
In this file picture taken on July 28, 2009 Peruvian President Alan Garcia gestures at the crowd after delivering a speech for the country's 188th independence anniversary, at the National Congress in Lima. Peru's former president Alan Garcia died on April 17, 2019 after shooting himself in the head at his home as police were about to arrest him in a sprawling corruption case, according to a member of his party.
Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP

In this file picture taken on July 28, 2009 Peruvian President Alan Garcia gestures at the crowd after delivering a speech for the country's 188th independence anniversary, at the National Congress in Lima. Peru's former president Alan Garcia died on April 17, 2019 after shooting himself in the head at his home as police were about to arrest him in a sprawling corruption case, according to a member of his party. Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP

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Peru's former president Alan Garcia shot himself in the head at his home on Wednesday as police were about to arrest him in a sprawling corruption case, his lawyer and hospital officials said. He succumbed to his injury.

The 69-year-old Garcia was undergoing emergency surgery for "a bullet wound to his head" at the Casimiro Ulloa Emergency Hospital in Lima, the hospital said.

Peru's Health Minister Zulema Tomas said Garcia was in a "very critical and very serious" condition.

She said he had to be resuscitated three times: "He's had three cardiac arrests."

The health ministry said the bullet went straight through Garcia's head.

Attempted arrest

The attempted arrest took place at 06:30 (11:30 GMT) at Garcia's home in the upmarket Miraflores neighbourhood of Lima.

Police were acting on an arrest warrant for money laundering that would have allowed Garcia to be held for 10 days, giving authorities time to gather evidence and prevent him from fleeing, the prosecutor's office said.

"This morning there was a regrettable accident: The president took the decision to shoot himself," Erasmo Reyna, Garcia's lawyer, told reporters outside the hospital.

Garcia, who was president from 1985-90 and again from 2006-11, is suspected of having taken bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in return for large-scale public works contracts.

In November he sought refuge in the Uruguayan Embassy after a court ordered him not to leave the country for 18 months.

He applied for asylum but following 16 days in the embassy he left when his request was denied.

Garcia, a social democrat, claimed to be the target of political persecution, an accusation denied by centrist President Martin Vizcarra.

On Tuesday Garcia said he would neither try to flee nor hide again.

In recent weeks, Garcia had insisted that "there is no statement, evidence or deposit that links me to any crime and even less so with the Odebrecht company or the execution of any of its projects".

Although under investigation by the public prosecutor's office, Garcia has not been charged with anything.

Money laundering and bribes

He was one of four Peruvian ex-presidents embroiled in various corruption scandals – alongside Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18), Ollanta Humala (2011-16) and Alejandro Toledo (2001-06).

Kuczynski was urgently taken to hospital on Wednesday suffering from high blood pressure, lawmaker Gilbert Violeta said.

Violeta told RPP radio station the 80-year-old was being treated in intensive care.

Kuczynski is under a 10-day preliminary detention until April 20, accused of money laundering. Toledo faces extradition from the United States, having been charged with taking a $20m Odebrecht bribe.

Odebrecht has admitted paying $29m in bribes to Peruvian officials over three administrations.

Some of those payments were allegedly made during Garcia's second term in office to secure a contract to build the Lima metro.

Peruvian press reports also claim Garcia received a $100 000 payment from an illicit Odebrecht fund for giving a speech to Brazilian business leaders in Sao Paulo in May 2012.

Prosecutors allege that Garcia and 21 other officials conspired to enable Dutch company ATM Terminals to win a 2011 concession to operate a terminal at the port of Callao, near Lima.

Another ex-president, Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity and corruption.

His daughter and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori is being held in pre-trial detention for up to three years, accused of accepting $1.2m in illicit party funding from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential campaign.

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