Peru: Trial of Vladimiro Montesinos Begins in Lima

Article excerpt

The first two public trials of Vladimiro Montesinos, the shadowy and powerful figure behind Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), began on Feb. 18. They are, however, only the beginning of the legal actions against the former intelligence chief. More than 60 charges are pending, ranging from bribery and illicit enrichment to drug trafficking and murder. Also on trial is the Peruvian justice system, with the proceedings against Montesinos testing whether the courts have really become independent.

In the first trial, Montesinos is charged with helping his former girlfriend's brother get out of prison. He is accused of obtaining a pardon for Americo Perez Ortega, brother of his lover Jacqueline Beltran. Perez Ortega had been convicted of drug trafficking. Beltran is also being tried, as is her uncle Antonio Vera who allegedly received a favorable court judgment in a dispute with a bank.

The second trial involves funneling US$25,000 in state funds to the 1998 election campaign of Luis Bedoya, the former mayor of Lima's Miraflores district.

Montesinos, a lawyer, delayed the start of his trials for nearly five months with legal challenges. "Montesinos is the champion of paperwork, presenting mountains of petitions to delay his day in court," said assistant special prosecutor Ronald Gamarra. "This is his right, like any Peruvian, but the judges should have acted must faster on the petitions."

Montesinos is still appealing both cases, arguing that they are unnecessary because the maximum sentences are less than a sentence he received in July when he was found guilty of abuse of authority during his 10 years as security advisor and sentenced to nine years and four months in prison. He was also fined US$2.9 million (see NotiSur, 2002-07-05).

In previous statements, Montesinos has insisted that everything he did was on Fujimori's orders. He has admitted some lesser crimes, like abuse of authority, but denies more serious charges like drug running and ordering massacres.

"Vladivideos" bring down Fujimori, Montesinos

In September 2000, a TV station aired a video showing Montesinos bribing congressional Deputy Alberto Kouri Bumacher. With that, the authoritarian government headed by Fujimori began its downward spiral (see NotiSur, 2000-09-02). In November, Fujimori went on a trip to Japan and faxed back his resignation (see NotiSur, 2000-10-06). The former president is still in Japan, his dual citizenship so far successfully blocking efforts to extradite him.

Montesinos had fled the country in October 2000 and was captured in Venezuela in June 2001. Since his return to Peru, he has been held in a maximum security prison at the Callao Naval Base.

On Feb. 12, the Sala Penal Especial de la Corte Suprema sentenced Kouri to six years in prison for corruption. The court found that Kouri had accepted US$15,000 from Montesinos to switch his party affiliation to Fujimori's Peru 2000 party. The court also ruled that Kouri must pay US$143,000 in civil compensation. Gamarra said he disagreed with the sentence, which did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Kouri could be paroled after four years for good behavior. In corruption cases, the prisoner must serve two- thirds of the sentence before being eligible for parole. Kouri has been in jail for two years, so he could be up for parole in February 2005.

Far-reaching corruption network

The more than 2,000 videos that Montesinos secretly taped have led to the arrest of judges, generals, politicians, and media owners. The corruption network involved more than 1,500 people, including Montesinos' wife, daughter, and a television talk-show star. Former attorney general Blanca Nelida Colan was recently sentenced for links to the corruption network.

Many believe that Montesinos still has significant influence over a judicial system he reputedly controlled with intimidation and bribes during the Fujimori regime. …