LIMA – A Peruvian judge on Sunday ordered President Pedro Castillo's sister-in-law to be held in prison up to 2.5 years while she is investigated for criminal association and corruption for her participation in an alleged money laundering scheme involving the president and first lady.
After postponing his decision twice, judge Johnny Gómez said there was “a high probability of fleeing” for Yenifer Paredes, 26, and ordered her pretrial detention.
Paredes had been raised by Castillo and his spouse as their daughter after her mother died. It is the first time in Peru that a relative so close to a sitting president has been sent to prison.
Defense lawyers said they would appeal the decision and Castillo has denied all the accusations against him.
Paredes had turned herself in to the prosecutor’s office on Aug. 10, a day after police went to the presidential palace to arrest her but failed to find her there. She had been serving 18 days while being questioned at a police station.
The prosecutor’s office asked a judge last week to impose a 3-year preventative sentence.
Castillo has not commented on the detention of his relative. But at the time she turned herself in, he said “they will pull out all the stops to continue hitting my family, my parents, brothers, it is part of the struggle but they are not going to break me.”
Prosecutor's have accused Castillo, several of his relatives, Transportation Minister Geiner Alvarado and a town mayor of being part of a criminal group that created front companies to launder money. The coordinator of the alleged group was the first lady and three relatives of the president, including Paredes, were figureheads.
The prosecution said Paredes helped the owner of one front company obtain a public works project despite not having the economic capacity or experience to guarantee its completion.
Despite only a year in office, Peru's president faces several criminal investigations, including for influence peddling and leading a criminal network.
Despite being investigated, Castillo cannot be formally accused by a judge because Peru's constitution says the president can only be accused of treason, dissolving congress without reason and for not allowing elections. Prosecutors must wait until Castillo leaves the presidency to formally present other charges against him.
Castillo was a rural teacher before he shocked Peru’s political elite by winning election as president campaigning on promises to improve education, health care and other services. But the political neophyte’s first year has seen near constant turmoil, with Cabinet members changing multiple times and Castillo staving off two impeachment attempts.