A scandal involving the pardoning of jailed drug traffickers during President Alan Garcia’s administration is growing, with Peru’s attorney general’s office opening up preliminary investigations against a former justice minister.
Allegations that high-level government officials in Garcia’s administration were taking bribes in order to grant pardons to inmates, emerged earlier this year during investigations by a special congressional committee set up to look into corruption allegations during that administration.
In April, information leaked from the committee to the media showed that some 5,500 prisoners were pardoned during Garcia’s term in office from 2006 to 2011, including hundreds of drug traffickers. Officials said that in some cases, entire gangs were released from prison.
Informants said that government officials would take payments of $10,000 from inmates per each year that they wanted reduced from their sentences.
At the time, Prime Minister Juan Jimenez called the revelations a “national scandal” in a country that is one of the world’s top producers of cocaine and that has struggled to curb growing insecurity in the streets.
Former President Garcia denied wrongdoing and said the pardons were given in good faith and only to lower level traffickers who shouldn’t have to languish in Peru’s harsh, overcrowded prison system. He defended the head of the pardon’s committee, Miguel Facundo Chinguel, and other former government officials.
This week the case took a turn with revelations from an informant directly linking Facundo Chinguel to the scandal that has become known as the “narco-pardons.” Anti-corruption police detained the grey-haired Facundo Chinguel after the attorney general’s office opened a formal investigation against him and 13 others in connection to the pardons.
A day later the attorney general’s office said it was expanding its investigation to include Aurelio Pastor, Justice minister during Garcia’s administration. Pastor denied he was involved with Facundo Chinguel in the pardons. “I never spoke with Facundo Chinguel about a file,” Pastor said in comments to daily El Comercio.
This isn’t the first time that Pastor, a well-known lawyer, has been accused of corruption since he left office. Last year, a mayor in Peru’s San Martin region said that Pastor offered to help her with a recall election and her suspension from the public post if she paid him about $20,000. He said he had “friends” in the system that could make her problems go away.
Corruption was known to be widespread in Garcia’s administration, with other high-ranking members of the former President’s Apra party being indicted in an oil-kickback scandal, which involved not only the persons involved in the bribes for an oil concession but also the current trial of persons involved in the company Business Track, BTR, which allegedly tapped phone calls for private clients and so proved the bribery allegations. All those involved are closely related to the Apra party.