The lower house of Peru's legislature voted to lift former President Alan Garcia's immunity from prosecution, setting the stage for a possible trial on charges that he stole nearly $50 million in public funds.
The Chamber of Deputies, after a seven-hour debate, voted 88 to 76 late Thursday to lift Garcia's immunity. The Senate has yet to vote on the immunity issue, which requires the approval of both houses.
Congressman Fernando Olivera, a bitter political enemy of Garcia, accuses him of having transferred $50 million of international reserves into private bank accounts via the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit & Commerce International.
U.S. Dist. Atty. Robert Morgenthau said last month that two former Peruvian Central Bank officials received $3 million in bribes to bank $270 million of Peru's international reserves with BCCI from 1986 to 1987.
Garcia, president from 1985 to 1990, has denied any knowledge of bribe-taking and said he does not believe the officials accepted the money. He said Peru banked reserves with the BCCI because it was the only bank that would lend it money.
Garcia aroused the ire of international banks early in his term when he halted payments on Peru's foreign debts and encouraged other Latin American nations to follow suit.