President sacks justice minister over judicial corruption scandal
by Carlos MANDUJANO / Agence France-Presse
Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra dismissed Justice Minister Salvador Heresi on Friday after the publication of a series of audio recordings that sparked a scandal over the sale of sentences and influence peddling.
“For the health of the justice system reform, I’ve asked minister Heresi to resign,” said Vizcarra on Twitter. “The period Peru is going through requires firm action.”
The audio recordings scandal had already claimed eight victims before Heresi, with five judges and three judicial officials suspended earlier on Friday.
Vizcarra’s move came after a conversation between Heresi and Supreme Court judge Cesar Hinostroza was played on television. Hinostroza is one of the judges at the center of the audio recordings scandal.
Heresi confirmed on Twitter that he had tendered his resignation so that Vizcarra could push through the judicial reform he had announced on Wednesday, when thousands of Peruvians marched through the streets of the capital Lima to protest against corruption in the justice system.
Heresi, though, insisted the published recordings “don’t contain any suggestion of illegality or lack of morality or ethics.”
In the recording, Heresi asks Hinostroza to come to his office to talk to him about a legal initiative, without giving any details.
“I needed your advice because there is a whole issue that Congress wanted, on a multiparty level, to work at the legislative level in the area of criminal law and there was a sentence that you worked on,” Heresi told the magistrate.
The highest-ranking judge suspended is Walter Rios, the Superior Appeals Court president in the city of Callao, near Lima, whom anti-corruption public prosecutor Amado Enco said “cannot, after such serious events, be allowed to walk down the street. He’s committed serious crimes.”
The diffusion of inflammatory audio recordings began on Sunday on investigative journalism website IDL-Reporteros and the Panorama program on television station Canal 5, after which the public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into suspected influence peddling.
“We knew that the judicial system in Peru did not operate transparently. The audio recordings are the proof that was missing,” Vox Populi analyst Luis Benavente told AFP.
Vizcarra on Friday appointed a committee of six jurists headed by ex-chancellor Allan Wagner and gave them 12 days to deliver a judicial reform proposal.
There is a feeling of deja vu in Peru, where two ex-presidents — Alberto Fujimori in 2000 and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in March — were brought down by undercover audio or video recordings. (AFP)