Alan Garcia was rushed to hospital in the capital, Lima. A crowd of supporters gathered outside the hospital building and were held back by a line of police officers. Alan Garcia was accused of taking bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht - claims he vehemently denied.
His death was confirmed by current President Martin Vizcarra, who expressed his condolences over Twitter.
Officers had been sent to arrest him at his home in the affluent Miraflores neighborhood in connection with the allegations. Interior Minister Carlos Morán told reporters that when police arrived, Alan Garcia asked to make a phone call and went into a room and closed the door. Minutes later, a shot rang out, Carlos Morán said. Police forced the door open and found Alan Garcia sitting on a chair with a bullet wound to his head.
Alan Garcia, served as president from 1985 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2011, was under investigation for money laundering and taking bribes in connection with a massive corruption scandal that has engulfed a number of former Latin American leaders.
"Devastated by the death of former President Alan Garcia, I send my condolences to his family and loved ones," President Vizcarra tweeted.
Investigators say he took bribes from Odebrecht during his second term in office, linked to a metro line building project in the capital. Odebrecht has admitted paying almost $30m (£23m) in bribes in Peru since 2004. Alan Garcia maintained he was the victim of political persecution, writing in a tweet on Tuesday that there was "no clue or evidence" against him. In November last year, he unsuccessfully applied for political asylum in Uruguay.
Odebrecht - a huge corruption scandal shakes Peru and Latin America
A brief political biography of Alan Garcia
In 1985 Alan Garcia, the young and charismatic candidate of the Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), was elected as president. Aged only 36, Peruvian voters were attracted to his youthful charisma and confident optimism. He was even compared to former US president John F. Kennedy. From former governments Garcia inherited a slow economic growth, inflation, flight of currency out of the country, immense poverty and social unrest. But instead of improvements Garcia's impulsive decisions lead the country even further into chaos. Hyperinflation destabilized the Peruvian economy even more.
These economic turbulences worsened poverty and social tensions in Peru and contributed partly to the rise in violence acts of terrorist groups (Shining Path and MRTA) destabilizing the country even more. Garcia's answer to solve the problem was military force committing numerous massacres even against those who were only suspected of being involved with the Shining Path. Overall whatever Alan Garcia touched during his first presidency went from bad to worse. Many believe that the severe economic crisis, the financial isolation of the country, social unrest and violence smoothed the way for an authoritarian leader like his successor Alberto Fujimori.
In June 2006 Alan Garcia, candidate of the Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) was elected president once again. After a really disastrous presidential term from 1985 to 1990, Garcia stated that he had learned from his past mistakes and returned to the presidency with many promises to improve Peru's social conditions. Garcia sought to balance economic stability with increased social spending, promised to decrease poverty, especially in Peru's southern highlands where poverty is most acute and wanted to lead an accountable and transparent government.
While many in Peru and abroad had strong doubts at the beginning of Garcia's presidency, they were surprised later. Garcia managed to embrace free markets and free trade, making Peru one of Latin America's top destinations for foreign investment. Under his presidency foreign investment increased, the economic status of the country improved, public debt dropped, and foreign reserves went up. In December 2008 Alan Garcia was named Leader of the Year by the Latin American Business Chronicle for his achievements.
Even though the poverty rate dropped from 48% at the beginning of his administration to around 30% today and many governmental social projects were implemented, it still seems that the economic success of the country didn't reach all in Peru. His opponents reproach Garcia as well for an increase in social conflicts mainly due to the control that foreign companies hold over Peru's wealth of natural resources, and the growth of drug trafficking.