Peru: Former Spy Chief Vladimiro Montesinos Gets 20-Year Sentence for Arms Sale to Colombian Rebels

NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, October 6, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Peru: Former Spy Chief Vladimiro Montesinos Gets 20-Year Sentence for Arms Sale to Colombian Rebels


Former spymaster of Peru Vladimiro Montesinos received a 20-year sentence for authoring a scheme that delivered 10,000 combat rifles to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). The sentence concludes a trial that has been running for nearly three years (see NotiSur, 2004-01-30), and, since he is serving a number of other criminal sentences, adds only five years to his time in jail. Nonetheless, the 61-year-old Montesinos still faces more trials for abuses of power during his time as head of Peruvian intelligence during the administration of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Adds 5 years to current prison terms

Montesinos is already serving a 15-year term on about a dozen corruption convictions, which under Peruvian law are served concurrently. Counting time served, he is scheduled for release March 17, 2023--just before his 78th birthday.

Montesinos reportedly appeared impassive as a tribunal of judges on Sept. 21 declared him guilty--closing a trial that has heard testimony resembling a spy thriller with gun buys in Jordan and an arms dealer called the Merchant of Death.

The court also ordered Montesinos and five co-defendants to pay a fine of US$3.1 million. The court rejected the prosecution's recommendation that half the money be paid to Colombia's government, state attorney Juan Carlos Portocarrero said.

Montesinos told the judges he plans to appeal. He also faces a possible 35-year sentence in another trial for allegedly directing a paramilitary death squad during the first half of Fujimori's 10-year authoritarian government. Other trials against him are ongoing or have yet to begin.

Montesinos' latest conviction involves a case in which men working for him posed as Peruvian military representatives to purchase Soviet-era assault rifles from Jordan that were delivered in 1999 to the leftist FARC rebels. The plot included a stealth Ukrainian flight crew, a French financier, and a Lebanese arms dealer, the court ruled.

Montesinos--who during the 1990s gained control of Peru's military, the courts, and most media outlets--maintained throughout the trial that he had nothing to do with the arms deal and that he was responsible for uncovering the scheme.

Testimony from Montesinos' 18 co-defendants--most of whom received sentences ranging from six to 15 years--overwhelmingly fingered him as the leader of the plot.

Montesinos' influence permeated a nation already weakened by chronic corruption until Fujimori's regime collapsed in November 2000 amid a bribery scandal involving his spymaster (see NotiSur, 2000-08-25, 2000-09-22 and 2000-10-06). The arms scandal came to light three months earlier when Montesinos made a rare public appearance with Fujimori to announce that Peruvian authorities had dismantled a gunrunning ring led by brothers Jose Luis and Luis Frank Aybar, both Peruvian army veterans. But their version quickly unraveled under skepticism from Colombian and Jordanian officials.

Montesinos fled Peru but was captured in Venezuela in June 2001. He has since been locked up in the high-security naval prison in Lima's port of Callao, which he helped design for Peru's most notorious guerrilla leaders.

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