, LIMA, Jan 18 – Peruvian Vice President Omar Chehade, once seen as a close ally of President Ollanta Humala, resigned Tuesday amid a probe into an influence-peddling scheme.
Chehade, one of two Peruvian vice presidents, took the decision “with the goal of not causing prejudice to the good image of government,” according to his letter of resignation released by Congress.
Chehade, 41, had been under investigation for allegedly using his influence to help the powerful Wong agricultural business conglomerate.
He denied charges that he met in October with three Peruvian police generals to discuss removing striking workers from a sugar cooperative to clear the way for Wong to take it over. However, he did admit to political “inexperience.”
A lawyer who is also a member of Congress, Chehade held the largely ceremonial job of second vice president for three months before resigning.
Chehade made his name as an anti-corruption prosecutor and in helping extradite former president Alberto Fujimori from Chile to stand trial. Fujimori is serving a 25-year prison sentence for committed during his 1990-2000 presidency.
That role earned him the enmity of the Fujimori’s supporters, who have a sizeable representation in Congress under the leadership of the ex-president’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori.
Humala, who has made fighting corruption a priority, distanced himself from Chehade, saying that everyone should “take responsibility” for their actions. He earlier suggested Chehade might want to “step aside.”
Chehade complained in October of “an unjust and excessive media and political campaign” unleashed against him.
On December 5, the Congressional Ethics Committee suspended Chehade for 120 days from his duties as a legislator and referred his case the Constitutional Accusations Commission based on “evidence of the alleged crime of active generic bribery and influence peddling.”
Chehade’s resignation came hours before another committee was scheduled to decide whether to recommended a vote that could lead to his impeachment.
In comments to reporters, Prime Minister Oscar Valdes called Chehade’s resignation a “personal decision” that the president accepted.
The center-leftist Humala, a former army major, took office in July 2011. He currently has a 54 percent approval rating.
Peru’s first vice president is economist and former news reporter Marisol Espinoza.