Former president of Peru, Alan García, on Wednesday deliberately shot himself in the head when police officers tried to arrest him in connection with a multibillion-dollar Latin American corruption scandal.
The 69-year-old politician, who faced accusations of taking bribes from the Brazilian construction giant, Odebrecht, during his 2006-2011 presidency, was admitted to a nearby hospital soon after, at about 6.45am, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.
According to Peru’s interior minister, Carlos Morán, García had told police officers he was going to call his lawyer and “shut himself in his bedroom” before a shot was heard.
Erasmo Reyna, García’s lawyer, had earlier told local media his client “took the decision to shoot himself” early on Wednesday after officers arrived at his home in the capital, Lima, to place him under preventive detention.
García is one of four former Peruvian presidents to be sucked into the vast Odebrecht scandal, by which multimillion-dollar bribes were paid to secure construction contracts across the region, alongside Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo.
Alan García served two terms as president from, 1985 to 1990 and then 2006 and 2011, and is one of Peru’s most prominent politicians.
He rejected claims of wrongdoing, painting himself as the victim of political persecution. Last year he unsuccessfully requested political asylum in Uruguay after seeking shelter in its embassy in Lima.
“I have never sold myself and this has been demonstrated,” García tweeted on Tuesday.
The attempt to arrest García came just days after an investigation revealed his personal secretary, Luis Nava, had allegedly received $4m from Odebrecht’s off-the-books bribery department.
During an interview on Tuesday García said he “emphatically” rejected the accusations against him which he described as “speculations” and “moral assassination”.
“I am saddened by the death of former president Alan García,” tweeted the country’s current president, Martín Vizcarra, confirming the news. “I send my condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Political allies from García’s once-powerful party, Apra, expressed shock and outrage at his dramatic death.
“At this moment of profound pain we must reaffirm our unity and our brotherhood,” tweeted congressman Jorge del Castillo, calling on supporters to gather outside the party’s headquarters on Wednesday night.