Authorities in Peru have dismantled a complex corruption network that spanned various levels of government, underscoring how deep-rooted graft networks have persisted in the country.
Since early December, Lima's anti-corruption prosecutor has cracked down on a ring known as Los Gestores (The Managers), largely made up of officials from the economy and housing ministries. So far, 11 people were arrested, including federal officials, as well as mayors and governors who allegedly collaborated with the group.
The scheme appears to have involved federal officials demanding bribes from mayors and regional governors. The kickbacks were worth five percent of the total value of desired infrastructure projects.
The network operated in a highly specialized fashion. The federal officials had appointed intermediaries, or "managers," around the country to connect them with local governments to ensure the approval of public works. In order for that approval to be obtained, the five percent commission had to be paid, according to Omar Tello, Peru's national coordinator of anti-corruption prosecutors.
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According to Tello, the corruption scheme involved infrastructure projects across several regions of Peru, including Loreto, Junín and Huánuco.
"We have much more to investigate. We are talking about public works...which together add up to approximately $250 million," Tello told the media outlet RPP Noticias.
Peru's Economy Minister, Pedro Francke, asked for regional governments to cooperate and provide full details about any suspicious public works contracts in their area.
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The case of Los Gestores showcases how, despite several stop-start efforts, attempts to reform Peru's entrenched state corruption have failed.
It is uncertain what kind of consequences the officials involved will face if found guilty. But the circumstances are troubling. A recent report by Ojo Público recently revealed how 57 of Peru's most high-profile corruption cases, including some involving former presidents and high court judges, remain unresolved.
There are plentiful examples in Peru of elites receiving light punishment if any at all. In 2014, when more than 115 political candidates were investigated for ties with drug trafficking but almost no one was convicted. Former president Alan García was also investigated for allegedly accepting bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for pardons.
The list of these cases shows how widespread corruption is across Peru's state institutions, involving former presidents, members of congress, army officers, officials at the transport, health, justice and education ministries, high court judges, police commanders and health insurance executives.
According to a report by Peru's Comptroller-General, "in 2019, corruption generated damages worth...3 percent of GDP."
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This is a sad state of affairs for a country that saw a renewed push to root out corruption networks in 2018 and 2019 during the presidency of Martín Vizcarra. The former president took a hatchet to institutions of state mired in corruption and created a new selection board to appoint judges independently, which has not yielded the expected results.
But since Vizcarra was impeached in November 2020 in connection to yet another bribery allegation, it appears any lingering hopes have faded. Just in November, the governor of Peru's Madre de Dios department, a hotbed of illegal gold mining and deforestation, was accused of coordinating a timber trafficking network involving several Chinese timber companies.
The list of 57 stalled corruption cases is set to only grow longer.