The connection between PEPs [politically exposed persons] and money laundering is recognised: with access to public influence and public money, these individuals in positions of high public service can fall prey to their baser desires and start feathering their private nests with public, well, feathers. The accepted definition of PEPs has recently been updated in EU Member States to include homegrown domestic PEPs as well as foreigners, and “grand corruption” is (quite rightly) under fire from all sides.
What is interesting, however, is seeing what happens to PEPs who are accused of (some combination of) illegal enrichment, corruption and money laundering. Of course, their very PEP status does mean that they will be a target for political enemies who wish to blacken their name, and an accusation of corruption is a good place to start – so an accusation is by no means always well-founded. But still, the differences can be stark.
On 14 July 2017 it was announced that the former president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, and his wife Nadine Heredia had been placed into pre-trial detention to await the preparation of a money laundering case against them – which will take about eighteen months. They deny all charges and have handed over their passports, but the courts have deemed them a flight risk. Humala is now being held in Barbadillo prison, whose only other inmate is his political rival Alberto Fujimori (serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses). It is unlikely that the two will socialise.
In the same week, Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison for corruption and money laundering. However, it was not “go straight to jail, do not pass Go” for Lula: Judge Sergio Moro was minded to feel sympathy for him. He said that said he would not order Lula to be arrested and imprisoned because the conviction of a president is such a serious matter that an appeal should be heard first. Perhaps Judge Moro also has an eye to his future career: Lula, who was president between 2003 and 2010, is currently leading the polls for next year’s presidential election in Brazil…