A Peruvian judge ordered the Andean nation's former President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia to be jailed for up to 18 months on Thursday while prosecutors prepare formal money laundering charges against them, Reuters reported.
Judge Richard Concepcion ruled in favor of a request by prosecutor German Juarez, who argued Humala and Heredia should be jailed before a trial to prevent them from fleeing or interfering with his nearly three-year investigation.
"Their immediate capture internationally is ordered," Concepcion said as he handed down his decision amid jeers in the courtroom.
Humala and Heredia deny wrongdoing but were on their way to turning themselves into authorities, their lawyers told reporters.
TV images showed a car surrounded by news cameras leaving Humala's house in Lima.
"This confirms the abuse of power, which we will face in defense of our rights and the rights of all," Humala said on Twitter.
Juarez accuses Humala and Heredia of taking illegally obtained funds from late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht SA and OAS SA that were allegedly used in Humala's campaigns and for personal enrichment.
Concepcion's ruling against the couple came a day after former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for corruption and is a further blow to the political left in the region.
Humala ran an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2006 as an ally of Chavez before winning the 2011 election when he recast himself as a more moderate leftist like Lula.
Juarez said the money from Odebrecht and OAS was the product of corruption and the funds from Venezuela were pilfered from that country's treasury.
"Here's a president who rose to the presidency and governed us with an electoral campaign built on illicit money. That’s serious," Juarez told Concepcion.
The ruling marked the second time that a former Peruvian president has been ordered behind bars since Odebrecht acknowledged in a plea deal with U.S. and Brazilian prosecutors in December that it paid bribes across Latin America over a decade-long period.
Peru's centrist former President Alejandro Toledo, believed to be in the United States, has denied wrongdoing and refused to turn himself in since Concepcion ordered him to be jailed for up to 18 months before a graft trial.
Odebrecht's former Peruvian director testified to paying Toledo a $20 million bribe in exchange for a lucrative contract and said he sent Humala $3 million on orders from the Workers Party of Brazil, according to prosecutors.
Toledo and Humala rose to power with the support of many Peruvians who once saw them as an antidote to the graft and autocratic style in the 1990-2000 right-wing government of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who has been serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations and graft since 2007.