SAO PAULO/LIMA (Reuters) - Brazilian police are investigating potential bribes of $3 million from Latin America's largest engineering conglomerate Odebrecht to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, court documents showed.
Documents seized from Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of the family-run company, cite "Program OH," which police said in the documents they interpreted as referring to the initials of the Peruvian president. They noted the funds were not allocated for any specific purpose.
Humala in a statement on Tuesday denied taking bribes and said he summoned Brazil's ambassador to his offices late on Monday to request official information about the inquiry following initial news reports on the Brazilian court documents.
Peru's attorney general's office said that because of presidential immunity prosecutors would not be able to investigate Humala until after his term ends in late July.
Odebrecht has won contracts worth several billions in Peru in the past decade, including a $5 billion natural gas pipeline during Humala's term after its sole bidding competitor was disqualified from a public auction at the last minute.
The inquiry comes amid political campaigning for Humala's successor and will likely drag further on his already-low approval ratings during his last five months in office. Presidents in Peru cannot hold two consecutive terms and the ruling party candidate is trailing far behind in polls.
Presidential hopeful Julio Guzman, second in the race to April elections, said on Twitter Humala should be banned from leaving Peru until the bribe allegations were cleared up.
Brazilian federal prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima said at a press conference on Monday investigators had evidence Odebrecht had bribed officials abroad, including a former transportation secretary in Argentina.
The largest-ever corruption investigation in Brazil has revealed an elaborate scheme of price-fixing among engineering firms, allegedly led by Odebrecht, to overcharge state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA and use the access funds to bribe officials, many in President Dilma Rousseff's coalition.
Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed in June and is on trial for corruption and money laundering, charges he denies.
Police noted in documents filed with the federal court in Curitiba, Brazil, that Brazil's investment in Peru jumped from $50 million per year to $900 million annually when Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became president. Many of the Brazilian investment projects were hydro-electric dams built by Odebrecht.
Odebrecht did not immediately respond to request for comment about the alleged bribes to Humala.
(Additional Reporting by Marco Aquino Editing by W Simon)