Economy & Trade, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

PERU: Sins of Her Father Visit Fujimori’s Daughter

Ángel Páez

LIMA, Jun 4 2009 (IPS) - Keiko Sofía Fujimori, who is planning to run for president of Peru in 2011, is having difficulty proving that her father, who governed this country from 1990 to 2000, did not make illicit use of public funds to pay for her studies and those of her brothers and sister at universities in the United States.

The daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who acted as First Lady after her parents separated and is now a congresswoman, has given a number of different explanations for the origins of the money, which she says amounted to 556,000 dollars.

At a recent press conference in Congress, she said her father had a personal fortune of over one million dollars, plenty to cover the expenses of his children, Keiko Sofía, Hiro Alberto, Sachi Marcela and Kenji Gerardo, at the universities of Boston, Columbia and Kansas.

Keiko Fujimori, who has promised to pardon her father, currently serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations, if she becomes president, said that her family had funds from three sources, totalling just over 1.2 million dollars.

She said her family had 400,000 dollars when her father took office in 1990. Rosa Fujimori, her aunt, lent her father 150,000 dollars, and 669,500 dollars were the proceeds from the 1999 sale of a property he owned in the municipality of Surco, in Lima province.

However, in 2001, when the former president was investigated for illicit enrichment, the parliamentary commissions in charge of the investigation concluded that his bank accounts did not show savings of 400,000 dollars, nor could his income explain the accumulation of such a sum.

They also found that the loan of 150,000 dollars to Fujimori by his sister Rosa was immediately handed over to his transport and housing minister, Antonio Páucar Carbajal, and was therefore not paid to any U.S. university.

And an expert audit ordered in 2003 by Supreme Court Justice José Luis Lecaros, who opened the investigation for illicit enrichment, confirmed that the 669,500 dollars Fujimori obtained from the property sale were not used to pay tuition at the universities of Boston, Columbia or Kansas.

The experts’ report indicated Fujimori kept 214,750 dollars in cash from the sale proceeds, and 167,376 dollars were deposited by Keiko Fujimori into her private account in Citibank in New York. She withdrew the money in 2001, after she and her brothers and sister had completed their studies.

The experts found that the money supposedly intended to pay for the studies of Fujimori’s two sons Hiro and Kenji, a further 167,376 dollars, turned up instead in an account at a Bank of Brazil branch in Panama belonging to their uncle by marriage, Rosa Fujimori’s husband and the former Peruvian ambassador to Japan, Víctor Aritomi Shinto.

The experts’ report for the Supreme Court concluded that it was “duly proven” that the beneficiaries did not use the money to finance their studies abroad.

“This is a campaign to discredit me that has been going on ever since I have been in first place in the opinion polls as a presidential candidate,” Keiko Fujimori said. “Everything has been properly proven: my father had more than a million dollars to cover tuition and upkeep for my brothers and sister and me, which cost 556,000 dollars.”

The prosecution of Alberto Fujimori for illicit enrichment, in which improper financing of his children’s higher education was one of 29 charges against him, was cut short because the former president fled to Japan, taking advantage of his dual nationality, after he was removed as president by Congress in 2000 on the grounds of being “morally unfit” to govern.

In 2005, Fujimori flew to Chile, where he was immediately arrested. When the Peruvian justice authorities sent Fujimori’s extradition file to the Chilean Supreme Court, the accusation of illicit enrichment was rejected, so Fujimori cannot be tried on this charge now.

But when investigations of the former president were carried out in Congress, the Attorney-General’s Office and the judicial branch, Keiko Fujimori was not a congresswoman, let alone a Peruvian presidential candidate.

“Now (an investigation) is definitely justified,” the ex-chair of one of the investigative commissions, former lawmaker Anel Townsend, told IPS.

“Keiko Fujimori is a candidate for the presidency, and therefore she should clarify where the money she used to finance her studies at Boston University came from,” she said.

Townsend said the parliamentary investigation commission concluded that the proceeds of the sale of Fujimori’s property were not used to pay tuition at the U.S. universities, because his children were finishing their studies by then. Besides, his bank accounts indicated no transfers to the universities’ accounts, she said.

The ex-chair of the second investigative commission, legislator David Waisman, said that his working group found evidence that even the sale and purchase of Fujimori’s property was a smokescreen.

“Fujimori was worried about what was being said in the press about the origin of the money to finance his children’s education in the United States,” Waisman told IPS.

“So he devised a scheme to explain where the funds for that purpose came from. In fact, former presidential adviser Vladimiro Montesinos made a statement about the money,” he said.

“Montesinos (in prison for corruption and human rights abuses) has said that Fujimori asked him for money to simulate the purchase of the property, and that a group of businessmen willing to lend a hand in the operation was convened. The Supreme Court experts confirmed that it was a phony sale,” Waisman said.

Waisman was referring to the statement Montesinos made to the Alvarado Commission on Apr. 25, 2002. Fujimori’s powerful former security adviser said on that occasion that “the payment (of tuition) for Fujimori’s children was made with cash that I gave him (Fujimori). Later on, he (Fujimori) simulated the sale of the house, with some persons posing as buyers. It was a fictitious sale.”

Nevertheless, Keiko Fujimori continues to insist that her father paid for her and her brothers and sister’s university expenses out of the proceeds of the sale of the property.

Opposition spokespersons in Congress, including Carlos Cánepa of Union for Peru (UPP), Freddy Otárola of the Nationalist Party (PNP) and Yohnny Lescano of the Parliamentary Alliance (AP), say that such an investigation is in the purview of the Attorney-General’s Office, but they did not rule out the possibility of a parliamentary commission, given that Keiko Fujimori is a congresswoman.

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