Peruvian ex-president Vizcarra banned from public office over vaccines scandal


FILE PHOTO: Peru's President Martin Vizcarra addresses the media outside Congress as he faces a second impeachment trial over corruption allegations, in Lima, Peru November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda/File Photo

LIMA (Reuters) - Former Peruvian president Martín Vizcarra has been banned from holding public office for 10 years in a unanimous vote by the country's congress after he allegedly jumped the queue to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vizcarra was found guilty of influence peddling, collusion and making false declarations in relation to Peru's VIP Vaccines scandal which saw scores of ministers and public officials receive Sinopharm vaccines before they were publicly available in the country.

Congress approved his temporary banning from public office by 86 votes in favour and zero against.

It also disqualified the former Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti from holding public office for eight years; and former Foreign Minister Elizabeth Astete for a year.

Both former ministers received the vaccine and resigned during the subsequent scandal. However, all three have denied having used their positions to obtain early access to vaccines.

Vizcarra said in February he and his wife were inoculated in October of the previous year as volunteers for the Sinopharm trial in Peru - a claim the university hosting the trial denied.

The former president came to office in March 2018 on a promise to curb endemic corruption in public office and ran the country until being impeached by Congress in November last year on separate corruption charges, which he continues to deny.

He had been due to take up a seat in Congress following elections in Peru at the weekend, having obtained the highest number of votes cast for any legislator.

Sinopharm's clinical trials in Peru took place between September and the end of 2020 with about 12,000 volunteers. In addition, local managers of the trial received 3,200 additional doses intended for personnel related to the research, host university Cayetano Heredia said.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Peter Cooney and Diane Craft)

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