A Lima court on Thursday ordered the arrest of the president of Peru’s Ancash region and more than 20 other individuals accused of homicide and conspiracy, daily El Comercio reported.
The detention order follows reports by Peru’s anti-corruption prosecutor alleging that Cesar Alvarez, the regional president of Ancash, was the head of a criminal organization that laundered money, wiretapped possible opponents, ordered assassinations of political rivals and intimidated those that accused his administration of corruption.
By late Thursday, 18 people had been arrested, and seven witnesses were beginning to testify about the ring’s operations, including details of an “elite squad of hit men”, according to Diaro 16.
The arrest order was also issued for two Congressmen, businessmen, civil construction union leaders, the mayor of the province of Santa, police officers, local judicial authorities and even prosecutors. One of the Congressmen, Heriberto Benitez of the Solidaridad Nacional party and allegedly involved in Alvarez’ wiretapping network, built his political reputation at the end of the Fujimori administration as a flagbearer against corruption and secrecy.
Alvarez and the others are accused of orchestrating the murder of Ezequiel Nolasco, who was gunned down in March. Nolasco, a former civil construction union leader and political rival of Alvarez, had accused the former president of committing widespread corruption. A month before Nolasco’s murder, another political opponent, Jose Luis Sanchez, was murdered when he openly began to campaign against Alvarez.
Police on Thursday arrested a 23-year-old man accused of being the hired gun that killed Nolasco.
Nolasco’s murder brought national spotlight onto the situation in Ancash, which has benefited from a massive increase of mining taxes during the past decade.
Authorities accuse Alvarez of using the funds for shady public works that resulted in millions of dollars being siphoned off for personal gain.
As of late Thursday, police were still searching for Alvarez. A spokesman for the regional president, Luis Arroyo, said that he was in Lima on official business and that he would not go into hiding.
“Cesar Alvarez won’t go underground,” Arroyo said.