Prosecutors widen illicit enrichment probe against Peru's president to include jewelry worth $500K

Peru’s top prosecutor says the scope of an investigation into President Dina Boluarte’s ownership of three luxury watches has broaden to include fine jewelry that authorities estimate could be worth more than $500,000 and money transactions that exceed $400,000
FILE - Peru's President Dina Boluarte talks to the press at the end of the Amazon Summit in Belem, Brazil, Aug. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

FILE - Peru's President Dina Boluarte talks to the press at the end of the Amazon Summit in Belem, Brazil, Aug. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru's top prosecutor told a committee of lawmakers Tuesday that the scope of an investigation into President Dina Boluarte' s ownership of three luxury watches has broaden to include fine jewelry that authorities estimate could be worth more than $500,000 and money transactions that exceed $400,000.

Attorney General Juan Villena told Parliament’s oversight committee that the transactions under investigation include “deposits of unknown origin” of $296,000 to the Boluarte's bank accounts. His testimony came hours after the president's attorneys said prosecutors will interview her Friday over the alleged illicit enrichment accusations, which are threatening her presidency.

Prosecutors have also instructed Boluarte to show them on Friday the three Rolex watches that led to the ongoing preliminary investigation and prompted lawmakers to seek her removal from office Monday. It was not immediately clear whether she will also have to present the fine jewelry, which Villena said includes a diamond-encrusted Cartier gold bracelet, gold rings and pearl necklaces.

Boluarte has denied the illicit enrichment accusations. But neither she nor her attorney, Mateo Castañeda, have answered questions from reporters about the watches, which she did not list in an obligatory asset declaration form.

The probe began in mid-March after a TV show spotlighted Boluarte wearing a Rolex watch that is worth up to $14,000 in Peru. Other TV shows later mentioned at least two more Rolexes.

Boluarte, a 61-year-old lawyer, was a modest district official before entering then-President Pedro Castillo’s government on a monthly salary of $8,136 in July 2021. She became president in December 2022 — when Parliament dismissed Castillo — with a lower salary of $4,200 per month and began wearing the watches shortly after.

Late Friday, armed police officers broke down the front door of Boluarte's house with a battering ram and entered the property to search for the watches. They did not find them.

The raid marked the first time in Peru’s history that police forcibly entered the home of a sitting president.

Lawmakers’ request to remove her from office cites the investigation as well as countrywide problems, such as rising crime. The request was submitted by lawmakers from various parties including Peru Libre to which Boluarte once belonged.

Lawmakers are expected to consider the request Thursday. The move must earn 52 votes in order for Parliament to accept it and open a debate. To remove Boluarte, the move requires 87 votes from the 130-seat unicameral Parliament, and so far, five parties that together have 54 votes expressed support for the president following the raid.

The investigation is widening as Boluarte struggles to govern amid sinking popularity, other probes against her and frequent scandals involving senior officials. On Monday, she reshuffled her Cabinet after six ministers submitted resignations.

The appointments were for ministers of interior, education, women, agriculture, production and foreign trade. Outgoing Interior Minister Víctor Torres told reporters his resignation was due to a family matter, while the heads of the Ministry of Women, Nancy Tolentino, and of Education, Miriam Ponce, did not offer reasons in the announcements they shared on social media.

Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America program at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank, said the changes “will not move the needle on public opinion or reduce the chances of impeachment or protests.”

“It is hard to imagine anything short of new elections could prevent yet another political crisis, though the president and her similarly unpopular allies in Congress will try to ride this out,” he said Tuesday.

If prosecutors eventually charge Boluarte with illicit enrichment, they will have to defer prosecution until after her term ends in 2026.

Peru is no stranger to presidential crises. No president has finished a full term since 2016, and the South American country cycled through three of them in a week in 2020, when lawmakers flexed their impeachment powers.

Castillo is now imprisoned while being investigated for alleged corruption and rebellion.

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Follow AP's coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

Police guard outside President Dina Boluarte's house during a raid aimed at seizing Rolex watches as part of a preliminary investigation into alleged illicit enrichment in Lima, Peru, Saturday, March 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

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