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Peru judge orders ex-President Ollanta Humala jailed before trial

A court in Peru has ordered the arrest of former President Ollanta Humala and his wife in a corruption case. The couple have been accused of money laundering in a scandal involving a Brazilian construction company.

A Peruvian judge ruled on Thursday that ex-President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia should be detained as they face money laundering charges.

The pre-trial detention would keep the couple in jail for up to 18 months while prosecutors prepare formal money laundering charges against them.

Judge Richard Concepcion decided in favor of a request by prosecutor German Juarez, who requested that the couple be arrested to prevent them from fleeing country or interfering with the investigation.

"Their immediate capture internationally is ordered," Concepcion said.

Humala and Heredia's defense lawyers immediately said they would appeal the ruling, but said the couple were on their way to turn themselves in to authorities.

"They're not fleeing. They never intended to flee," said defense attorney Wilfredo Pedraza.

Corruption scandal

Humala, who governed Peru between 2011 and 2016, is accused of taking undeclared funds from the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2006.

The former head of the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht also previously testified that he illegally contributed $3 million (2.6 million euros) to Humala's 2011 presidential campaign, which he ended up winning.

Watch video 01:35

The Odebrecht standstill

Prosecutors argue that the former president, who never declared the contributions, conspired with his wife to hide the funds for personal gain.

The same judge previously ordered the arrest of another ex-Peruvian president, Alejandro Toledo, on similar charges.

Thursday's ruling is the second time a former Peruvian president has been ordered behind bars since Odebrecht testified as part of a plea deal with US and Brazilian prosecutors in December that it paid bribes across Latin America over the course of 10 years.

The bribes included around $29 million paid to Peru for projects built during Toledo, Humala and former President Alan Garcia's administrations. Toledo, who is believed to be in the US, has refused to turn himself in.

The same scandal has also ensnared former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was convicted on Wednesday and sentenced to 9.5 years in jail for corruption.

rs/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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