The Ministry of Justice has appointed an interim State Prosecutor, Joel Segura, while it is fielding candidates to replace the country’s top anticorruption lawyer, Christian Salas, whose resignation was announced on the weekend.
The delay in appointing a successor immediately was noted by the former Anti-Corruption prosecutor, Julio Arbizu, who said he found it strange, “to say the least”, that a new prosecutor had not been appointed by the weekend, noting that Salas had in fact tendered his resignation a month ago. In January, Salas’ appointment to the post was announced in the same government statement that recognized Arbizu’s resignation.
“There are people in the Prosecutor’s Office who are fully capable of succeeding Salas,” Arbizu said, mentioning the interim prosecutor, Joel Segura, as well as Jenny Vilcatoma.
Meanwhile, Christian Salas said the main reason for his resignation was “very personal”, but that there were several other reasons that triggered his decision, including no longer feeling comfortable in the job.
Salas has led investigations into several corruption cases this year, including presidents of regional governments accused of stealing millions of dollars from public works contracts.
The most recent case involves fugitive businessman Martin Belaunde Lossio, a link in the year’s most notorious corruption case, that of Ancash regional president Cesar Alvarez, which also involves two members of Congress and another major network operator, Rodolfo Orellana.
Justice Minister Daniel Figallo stated that the government would actually consider accepting the cooperation of Belaunde Lossio, who was a close associate of President Ollanta Humala during the 2006 presidential campaign.
However, Salas commented that Belaunde Lossio could not be given a deal if he turned himself in and cooperated with authorities on corruption cases in which he is involved, on the grounds that he is now proven to be a ringleader rather than a lesser figure in the network.
In an interview with daily La Republica, Salas said that although there had been publicly aired disagreements with high-ranking government officials on corruption cases, he never felt pressure from the Executive regarding the Belaunde Lossio case.
“I never received a phone call from the Government Palace, or a meeting or a message that suggested that we stop doing our job in relation to not only Mr. Martin Belaunde Lossio, but any other case,” he said. “If that would have occurred… my resignation would have been different, with a press conference included and, without a doubt, all of my team would have resigned with me.”
“It was not differences of opinion with the Executive so much as – from my perspective – a discomfort in the Justice Ministry with some public statements I made regarding different cases,” Salas said.
“I considered that my legal statements were pertinent and necessary, even more so in the current context,” he added.
Corruption in Peru remains a major challenge some 14 years after President Alberto Fujimori’s government, considered by some to be one of the most corrupt in modern history.
This year, several regional presidents have been arrested, while a number of others are under investigation.