Peru's first lady shows up to offer court testimony without an appointment

After missing three court-ordered appearances, President Alejandro Toledo's wife showed up unannounced Monday to offer witness testimony in a probe of alleged mismanagement of funds in a government indigenous rights commission that she once led, the Lima Superior Court said.

"The court did not schedule the proceeding for the first lady's testimony today," and neither the state attorney nor the public prosecutor were present to ask her questions, the court said in a statement.

Judge Jorge Barreto planned to issue a new summons in the coming days for Eliane Karp, Toledo's wife.

Karp missed a third court summons in July that Barreto had scheduled on a Saturday to accommodate the first lady after she blamed her busy weekly work schedule for her failure to appear for two previous court-ordered appearances.

Peru's judiciary is investigating allegations that the National Commission of Andean, Amazon and Afro-Peruvian Peoples squandered nearly $5 million (Ђ4 million) of a World Bank loan to pay for high salaries, trips and parties.

Karp stepped down as head of the commission in July 2003, but continued on as "honorary president" while the alleged mismanagement of funds occurred.

A month after Karp stepped down, 36 signatories from Peru's major indigenous organizations refused to recognize the commission as representative of their interests, amid complaints that Karp and Toledo were tightly controlling membership on the board of directors.

Karp, a Belgian-born anthropologist who has lived in Israel and met Toledo at Stanford University in the United States, promised to help Peru's marginalized Indian majority when she became first lady. She once wowed highland Indian voters with her ability to speak the Quechua language.

But her sharp-tongued comments about Peru's media, and Lima's conservative society and political establishment have made her a target of acid criticism, AP reported.

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