Thu, Dec 30, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Peru's president faces fraud allegations

AP , LIMA, PERU

More than three quarters of the signatures used to register Peru-vian President Alejandro Toledo's political party ahead of the 2000 elections were forged, a legislator investigating the alleged fraud said on Tuesday.

"Of 1,200,000 signatures presented by Toledo's party, it has been established that 77 percent are false, according to a police analysis," Congressman Edgar Villanueva, who heads an investigative legislative commission, said.

Last week, state prosecutor Arturo Chalco presented charges against Toledo's sister, Margarita Toledo, and 25 other people to Peru's judiciary for evaluation by a judge to decide whether there is enough evidence to try the case.

Toledo has repeatedly denied allegations that his sister oversaw the systematic forging of names in 1997 and 1998 to make his Peru Possible party eligible for the 2000 elections. A witness implicated him in the alleged forgery scheme, but as president he is immune from prosecution.

In October, Congress rejected a motion to launch an exclusive investigation of Toledo's party. Instead lawmakers voted 59-6, with four abstentions, to appoint a commission to scrutinize the lists of signatures, or inscriptions, of all political parties -- including the president's.

Villanueva, who quit Toledo's party to join an independent bloc last year, was tapped to head the commission.

Opposition Congressman Rafael Rey, who first accused Toledo of using false signatures earlier this year, said before Toledo's term ends in 2006, "it will be demonstrated that Mr. Toledo, he personally, was the principal promoter and author of this entire fraud."

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