3 keys to understanding the ‘Rolex case’ that led to searches at the Peruvian president’s house

3 keys to understanding the ‘Rolex case’ that led to searches at the Peruvian president’s house
3 keys to understanding the ‘Rolex case’ that led to searches at the Peruvian president’s house

Boluarte came to power in Peru in 2022, following the abrupt departure of his predecessor, Pedro Castillo

Photo: Reuters / BBC News Brasil

Luxury watches, a police operation and a request for impeachment: Peru is once again experiencing a political scandal that calls into question the stability of Dina Boluarte’s government.

The country’s president is being investigated for allegedly owning more than a dozen expensive watches, with which she has appeared publicly since she began in government as vice-president and minister of Development and Equality, and later as successor to the now ex-president Pedro Castilho.

The Peruvian prosecutor’s office accuses Boluarte of illicitly enriching himself and omitting jewelry from wealth declarations.

It was based on a report published on March 14 by the Peruvian media outlet La Encerrona that the investigations began.

Journalists from the multimedia platform analyzed thousands of archive photographs of Boluarte from events she participated in. The Peruvian president carried watches, some possibly Rolex, valued at thousands of dollars.

During the investigation, authorities raided her residence and the Government Palace between Friday night and Saturday morning (March 29 and 30, respectively). The operation was harshly criticized by the president.

That same Saturday, in a pre-recorded video in which she appeared flanked by ministers, Boluarte said that she found the way the operation was carried out “surprising” and that she is a victim of “systematic harassment”.

“It is an arbitrary, disproportionate and abusive measure,” she said.

In her speech, Peru’s first woman president barely mentioned the case against her. According to the argument, this was a recommendation from the lawyers defending her.

“Since when does a section of the press care about what a president wears or doesn’t wear? I hope and want to believe that this is not a sexist or discriminatory issue,” she said.

Also on Saturday, the Peru Libre party presented a request for impeachment, which currently only has the support of center-left parties.

On Monday night (1/4), the president swore in six new ministers, including a new head of Justice, two days before her office appeared at the Peruvian Congress plenary to request a vote of confidence.

So far, none of the outgoing ministers have publicly questioned Boluarte over the Rolex case.

In this report, we present three key points to understand everything that is happening in Peru — and what could happen this week, when Boluarte is expected to testify before the Public Ministry and congressmen will debate the continuity of her presidency.

A group of prosecutors and police entered Boluarte’s house, but did not find the watches at the end of March

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

1. What the report says

The investigation against Boluarte began with a publication by the media outlet La Encerrona, whose team received reports from several sources that the president was wearing Rolex watches, possibly valued at thousands of dollars, which had not been declared by her.

That’s why in February this year — says Marco Sifuentes, director of La Encerrona — the outlet decided to analyze the photographs of Boluarte’s public activities archived by the government itself.

The journalists set up a database and realized that the president, since taking on the role of Minister of Development and Social Inclusion in 2021, has worn around 15 different watches.

In her first appearances, she had a Michael Kors watch, which, according to Sifuentes, was worth no more than US$200 (R$1,000).

But, as the months passed at the head of the ministry, and after assuming the country’s presidency in December 2022, Boluarte began to be seen with models that seem more expensive.

“We confirmed that one of them was a Rolex, valued at at least US$14,000 (R$70,000), because we had a lot of high-quality images. We didn’t want to say the others were Rolex, we had doubts about three others, but the media Peruvian company states that they are the same brand after consulting experts”, details Sifuentes.

According to the rules of the South American country, an elected official must present a sworn declaration on assets that exceed the value of 10,300 soles (R$ 14 thousand), explains Peruvian journalist Martín Riepl, journalist for Latina Noticias and contributor to BBC Mundo, the BBC Spanish service.

La Encerrona confirmed that Boluarte did not declare the watches. The pieces were not acquired by any government agency either.

“We asked the chancellery, responsible for government protocol, for information to find out if they had acquired any watches, but they told us no. We also asked Dina Boluarte for explanations, but she did not respond. In her sworn statements, there is no evidence of these devices If they were gifts, they should also have been declared”, details Sifuentes.

The president of Peru is accused of possible illicit enrichment and omitting information in her wealth declarations

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

Since then, the president has made few public appearances. But in one of them, held on March 16, she said that the supposed Rolex referred to by La Encerrona was an item from “yesterday”, which she bought with her own effort.

“What I want to say, not to the biased news, but to the whole of Peru, is that I have been working since I was 18 years old and what I have is the result of my effort and my work. The watch in particular is from the old days, I use it a lot occasionally”, she stated, later refusing to give further answers on the matter.

Sifuentes guarantees that the president’s response is not “satisfactory”, because the watches “are models launched in the last decade”.

Riepl adds that Boluarte, before assuming political office, was an employee of the body in charge of issuing identifications in Peru, where she earned around 4,500 soles per month (just over R$6,000).

Her salary as minister was 30,000 soles (R$40,000), a value that was reduced to 15,500 (R$21,000) when she became president.

Local media also reported that authorities detected around $300,000 in deposits of unknown origin made into Boluarte’s personal accounts before she took office.

Due to these allegations, the Peruvian Public Ministry decided to open an investigation from March 18th.

Dina Boluarte released a message on Saturday in which she referred to the operation carried out at her residence as ‘systematic harassment’

Photo: Reuters / BBC News Brasil

2. How was the operation

During Friday night and Saturday morning, Peruvians watched in surprise as authorities broke into Boluarte’s residence in the Surquillo neighborhood of the capital Lima.

The operation, conducted by prosecutors and police, was broadcast on the Latina Television network. The Government Palace and the president’s vehicle were also searched.

Although in recent years the country has seen its politicians investigated and criminally prosecuted, including presidents, Riepl says the way authorities raided Boluarte’s home was unusual.

The Police claimed that they waited for access and, when no one responded, they entered by force. The president said that she was not at home, but her son was, but she did not have enough time to answer the doorbell.

The search occurred because last week Boluarte did not appear to give a statement and show the alleged watches, after being summoned by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. She claimed she had a very busy schedule.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office requested a court order to search her house because there was an imminent procedural risk of loss, damage or destruction of the watches during the investigation”, explains Riepl.

The watches were not found in the operation, but some jewelry and documents were detected that reflect the acquisition of at least one Rolex on July 8, 2023.

“This contradicts Dina Boluarte’s statements, when she commented that her watch was the result of her work since she was 18 years old and that it was old”, continues Riepl.

Boluarte’s statement to the Public Ministry had been rescheduled for April 5th, but in view of the operation, the president herself asked that it be brought forward to happen “as quickly as possible”.

The Public Ministry has not yet responded to the president’s request.

People protest against dina boluarte

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

3. Can Boluarte leave the presidency?

As a result of the latest events, the Peru Libre party bench presented a request for the president’s impeachment to Congress, with the signature of at least 26 of the 130 congressmen.

“We have just presented the request for impeachment against Dina Boluarte, for permanent moral incapacity arising from the Rolex issue, in the exercise of the parliamentary function of political control”, said parliamentarian Margo Palacios on her account on X, the former Twitter, on Saturday.

Among those who support the request, the majority belong to Peru Libre or are part of other left-wing parties, such as Democratic Change, Together for Peru and Bloco Magisterial, which supports former president Pedro Castillo.

For this political group, Boluarte holds the presidency unconstitutionally.

The left also blames him for the 80 deaths and more than a thousand injured who were victims of police repression during the protests following Castillo’s arrest.

The lawyer took on her current position in December 2022, after her predecessor was arrested for dissolving Congress and declaring an emergency government.

In Peru’s Congress, Riepl details, 87 of the 130 votes are needed to remove a president. According to him, “there are no votes to remove Boluarte, but several groups have asked her to clarify the origin of the watches, despite considering a new impeachment to be very hasty.”

For Riepl, if congressmen approve a trial against Boluarte, this could lead to the elections being brought forward, “which implies that they will also have to leave their positions, something they do not want to face until 2026, when the current term ends.”

This does not mean, the journalist continues, that lawmakers will not hold the president responsible for the clocks and summon her to testify before Congress.

But he believes that “if she doesn’t explain herself correctly, what could happen is that the case will be archived, and the debate postponed, until it is useful to congressmen.”

“It’s a card they can play at some point if something even stronger doesn’t come along the way,” he concludes.

BBC News Brasil – All rights reserved. All types of reproduction without written authorization from BBC News Brasil are prohibited.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: keys understanding Rolex case led searches Peruvian presidents house



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