Ex-Peru president ensnared in bribe scandal leaves embassy refuge

A policeman stands guard outside the residence of Uruguay's ambassador to Peru, after former Peruvian President Alan Garcia requested asylum amid a probe into alleged bribes paid by a Brazilian contractor during his second term in office

Alan Garcia, a former president of Peru embroiled in a corruption scandal, left the embassy of Uruguay in Lima on Monday after his request for political asylum was rejected, officials said. "To put it simply, we have not granted the request for asylum," Uruguay's President Tabare Vazquez told a press conference in Montevideo. Vazquez said his government took the decision after reviewing Garcia's request and documentation submitted by the Peruvian government. Peru's Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio told the RPP radio station in Lima that he had been informed by the Uruguayan ambassador that Garcia had left the embassy. The 69-year-old Garcia took refuge in the Uruguayan embassy on November 17 after a Peruvian court investigating bribes allegedly paid by Brazilian contractor Odebrecht barred the former president from leaving the country. Garcia, a social democrat who served two separate terms as president, maintained he was the target of political persecution, a charge denied by Peru's President Martin Vizcarra. "In Peru, nobody has a crown. Our democracy guarantees the independence of powers and due process," Vizcarra said on Twitter. Garcia had returned to Peru in November to testify in the Odebrecht case when the court issued an order barring him from leaving the country for 18 months. "In Peru, the three powers of state operate autonomously and it is the judicial branch that is carrying out the investigations of possible economic crimes," Vazquez said at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa. "For strictly legal considerations we are not granting political asylum to Mr Alan Garcia," the Uruguayan president said. The Odebrecht payments were allegedly made during his second term in office, from 2006-2011, to secure a contract to build the Lima metro. He had previously been president from 1985-1990. Odebrecht has admitted to paying $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials over three administrations. The Peruvian press also has reported that Garcia received a $100,000 payment from an illicit Odebrecht fund for giving a speech to Brazilian business leaders in Sao Paulo in May 2012. Last week, while Garcia was in the Uruguayan embassy, Peruvian prosecutors opened a new investigation into irregularities in another public contract. Prosecutors allege that Garcia and 21 other officials conspired to enable Dutch company ATM Terminals to win a 2011 concession to operate a terminal at the port of Callao, near Lima.