Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

PERU: Fujimori Admits Illegal Payment to Spy Chief

Ángel Páez

LIMA, Jul 13 2009 (IPS) - Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) admitted that he paid 15 million dollars to his former security chief Vladimiro Montesinos on Sept. 22, 2000, just a few hours before the adviser fled to Panama.

Fujimori said it was true that he gave Montesinos the funds, but argued that he did not commit a crime because he paid back the money to the state coffers.

Prosecutor Avelino Guillén, who accused Fujimori of embezzlement and forgery, is seeking an eight-year sentence and 666,000 dollars in reparations to the state.

The former president said “I only accept the deeds; I accept neither the legal responsibility, nor the punishment nor the civil reparations.”

Guillén argued that instead of turning Montesinos over to the justice system, Fujimori gave his spy chief the money he asked for as a condition for leaving the country in the midst of the corruption scandal that brought down the government in November 2000.

The prosecutor pointed out that the former president paid Montesinos with public funds after the opposition leaked a video in which the former intelligence adviser is seen bribing Congressman Alberto Kouri to switch party loyalties and thus give Fujimori’s supporters a majority in parliament.

A sentence could be handed down on Friday, Jul. 17 or Monday, Jul. 20.

Fujimori’s defence lawyer César Nakazaki argued that his client did not forge documents to obtain the 15 million dollars in public funds, which were provided to him the then economy and defence ministers.

Nor do the embezzlement charges apply, according to Nakazaki, because the president paid the funds back.

But Guillén told IPS that Fujimori’s acknowledgement of paying Montesinos the 15 million dollars was enough to get him convicted.

The prosecutor’s office has presented evidence of crimes carried out by Montesinos on Fujimori’s orders, said Guillén. And because of those crimes, “Fujimori paid Montesinos 15 million dollars for his silence, before he (Montesinos) left for Panama. The ex-president has admitted all of this,” said Guillén.

“Fujimori also admitted that on Nov. 2, 2000 he returned the 15 million dollars, and with a totally cynical attitude, his defence counsel argued that because of this repayment, the crime of embezzlement no longer existed. This argument lacks a legal basis because the law penalises the mere misappropriation of public funds. Even if he paid back the money, the crime is not wiped clean, and punishment is in order,” the prosecutor added.

If Fujimori had not partially or totally confessed, he would have faced a lengthy trial in which witnesses would have testified, evidence would have been presented and the testimony of his former ministers would have been introduced.

Under the circumstances, the court will not summon former economy minister Carlos Boloña, who in an earlier trial declared that Fujimori ordered him to deliver 15 million dollars to former defence minister General Carlos Bergamino for a supposed campaign against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas along the border with that country.

Boloña said at the time that Fujimori told him the money was actually to be used to pay Montesinos an “indemnity.”

“Fujimori did not want to expose himself to a public accusation by one of his former ministers,” lawyer Gloria Cano with the APRODEH human rights association told IPS.

Cano defended the families of the victims of two high profile human rights violations committed by an Army Intelligence Service (SIE) death squad known as the Colina Group, in relation with which Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in April.

In the first massacre, 15 people – including a young boy – were killed at a November 1991 barbecue in the Barrios Altos neighbourhood in Lima, and in the second nine students and a professor were kidnapped from La Cantuta University in July 1992 and murdered.

The former president “wants to give the country the impression that he paid Montesinos the 15 million dollars to save democracy, which is why he used public funds which he would later pay back,” said Cano.

“But Fujimori should have to explain where he got the 15 million dollars to pay back what he got from the Defence Ministry,” she said.

Former prime minister Federico Salas and former economy minister Boloña have already been convicted of taking part in the secret operation to remove 15 million dollars from the treasury to pay Montesinos.

Guillén said the aim of Fujimori’s defence counsel is to earn him a lighter sentence on the grounds that he paid back the funds.

“But the president’s declaration of the origins of the money he used to return the Defence Ministry funds is still pending,” said the prosecutor. “He has no way out, because if he says that money also came out of the treasury, that would still be embezzlement. Unless he says he got the funds from somewhere else.”

The theory of the prosecutor’s office is that the money came from the illegal transfers that Montesinos made to Fujimori from the National Intelligence Service (SIN), which the then president kept in the government palace.

His former ministers testified that Fujimori called them to the government palace on Nov. 2, 2000 to be witnesses to the return of the 15 million dollars.

The money was delivered in two briefcases by Peru’s then ambassador to Japan, Víctor Aritomi – Fujimori’s brother-in-law.

Unlike the human rights trial, this time Fujimori’s children – congresswoman and presidential candidate Keiko and her younger brother Kenyi – were not in the courtroom.

Montesinos handed the 15 million dollars over to arms dealers Zvi Sudit, Ilan Weil and James Stone, who transferred part of the money to the intelligence adviser’s accounts in Switzerland.

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