Peru prosecutors reopen money laundering probe against first lady

Lima (AFP) - Prosecutors announced they have reopened a money laundering investigation against Peru's first lady Nadine Heredia.

Heredia, the wife of President Ollanta Humala, is accused of having received thousands of dollars in unexplained income several years ago -- around the same time her husband allegedly received illicit funds from various Venezuelan companies.

Prosecutors said the funds that were allegedly deposited into Heredia's bank account totaled some $215,000 and were used by her husband to finance his presidential campaign.

"Prosecutor German Juarez has ordered the expansion of an investigation to determine if there is probable cause for the alleged crime by Mrs Nadine Heredia of money laundering during the campaigns of 2006 and 2011," a statement said.

All the funds ended up in the account of Heredia, who is also chair of Peru's Nationalist Party and a potential candidate herself when the South American nation holds its next presidential election in April 2016.

Prosecutors said they have asked handwriting experts to examine bank deposit slips allegedly signed by the first lady, and she has been asked to submit samples of her writing dating back to the 2006-2011 period. She also must submit current samples of her handwriting.

Heredia has always denied receiving illegal campaign contributions, in particular from the Venezuelan government.

Maintaining her innocence, she posted on Facebook several months ago that she "never received money from the coffers of the Venezuelan state."

The prosecutor's announcement Friday is a reversal from a Lima court's June ruling, which said the allegations -- first investigated in 2009 and dropped in 2011 -- could not be reinvestigated under the law.

Peru's special prosecutor for money laundering, Ricardo Rojas Leon, had reopened the case in January.

In addition to the first lady, the investigation will also focus on her brother, Ilan Heredia, and on Martin Belaunde Lossio, a former 2006 presidential campaign advisor to Humala incarcerated in Lima after being extradited from Bolivia in May.