LIMA, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Peru is seeking 200 million soles ($60 million) from former government and company officials accused of involvement in bribes distributed by Brazilian builder Odebrecht to secure public works contracts in the country, authorities said on Friday.
The amount demanded in reparations for the graft scandal by special prosecutor Katherine Ampuero, who was recently named by the justice ministry to represent the state in the Odebrecht case, could change as the investigation continues, a statement from the office of the judiciary said.
Former President Alejandro Toledo and the former head of Odebrecht in Peru, Jorge Barata, are among eight people accused of being part of the company’s kickback schemes in Peru.
Toledo, whose whereabouts are unknown, is the target of an international arrest warrant. He has denied taking bribes from Odebrecht and said he was the victim of an unfair judicial process.
But Barata has told prosecutors as part of a plea bargain deal that he personally negotiated bribes for Toledo in exchange for help winning two highway contracts in 2005.
Family-owned engineering conglomerate Odebrecht has been at the center of the biggest region-wide corruption scandal in Latin America since admitting to giving out hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to unnamed officials across the region, including $29 million to win contracts in Peru.
“The damage ... against the state, its image and the institutions of the country, is incalculable,” Ampuero said in the judiciary’s statement.
Odebrecht declined to comment but has previously said it would cooperate fully with local prosecutors and was committed to paying reparations for its crimes in Peru.
Toledo’s attorney Heriberto Benitez said it was too early to announce a figure for reparations because he was still appealing a judge’s order last week for Toledo to be preventively jailed while the inquiry continues.
Benitez said it could take months to fully exhaust the appeals process. (Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Tom Brown)