PERU: Fujimori Admits Wiretapping, Bribery

  • by Angel Páez (lima)
  • Monday, September 28, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

After listening to the charges read out by prosecutor José Antonio Peláez, who asked for eight years in prison for the former president, Fujimori took the stand to plead guilty, thus cutting short the trial.

The court set the sentencing date for Sept. 30.

The sentence will be the fourth handed down to Fujimori since he was extradited from Chile on Sept. 22, 2007. The extradition took place after the former president, whose government collapsed in a corruption scandal in 2000, unexpectedly flew from Japan — where he had been granted asylum - to Chile in late 2005 and was immediately arrested.

In December 2007, he was handed a six-year prison term for abuse of power; in April he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for ordering a secret military death squad to commit two massacres; and in July he was given a seven-year sentence for embezzlement. The sentences will be served concurrently.

By asking for what is called a 'sentencia anticipada', 'Fujimori accepted that he is guilty of all of the charges: buying off members of Congress and media outlets and ordering wiretaps,' Peláez told IPS.

But according to a spokesman for the pro-Fujimori bloc in Congress, Carlos Raffo, the former president's only aim was to cut short the trial.

'The only reason Fujimori requested the early sentencing mechanism was to avoid a show,' Raffo told IPS. 'Why go to trial when we already know how it's going to end: with the maximum sentence? Fujimori has saved the court time and money.'

Peláez, however, said there was abundant evidence against Fujimori. 'The evidence we have is irrefutable. We also have the testimony of Vladimiro Montesinos (Fujimori's security chief), former legislators, retired generals and attorneys. And if that weren't enough, we have documents, audio recordings and videos.'

Judicial branch sources had anticipated to IPS that Fujimori would plead guilty to avoid a parade of 61 witnesses who were to testify in connection with the wiretapping and bribery charges.

The trial, which would have lasted an estimated six months, would have hurt the candidacy of Fujimori's daughter Keiko.

Last week, a poll by the Pontificia Catholic University Public Opinion Institute showed that Keiko Fujimori slipped to second place in terms of voting intentions for the 2011 presidential elections, after being in the lead for several months.

In addition, the justice system is investigating whether the former president used public funds to pay for the education of his children, including Keiko, at universities in the United States.

'I don't believe the trial will affect Keiko's campaign because it's going to start next year,' said Raffo. 'To the contrary, the previous trials drove up support for her in the polls. An early end was sought to this trial because Fujimori's health comes first. It was not necessary to subject him to a trial in which so many witnesses were to testify.'

The victims of the wiretapping by the National Intelligence Service (SIN) included former United Nations secretary general and presidential candidate Javier Pérez de Cuéllar; Fujimori's ex-wife, former congresswoman Susana Higuchi; and two other former presidential candidates — prominent writer Mario Vargas Llosa, in 1990, and Lourdes Flores, in 2000.

One of the witnesses would have been Montesinos, the de facto head of the secret services, who is in prison himself on a number of corruption charges.

Montesinos, widely known as the 'eminence gris' of the Fujimori regime (1990-2000), testified that the wiretapping, bribery of legislators and buying off of media outlets were financed with SIN funds with Fujimori's authorisation.

This is the second time that the former president has requested 'sentencia anticipada'. The first was in July, when he was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for giving 15 million dollars in public funds to Montesinos in the last few weeks of his government, in exchange for his security chief's agreement to leave the country.

Fujimori's defence attorney César Nakazaki said his client pleaded guilty because both of them are absolutely convinced that he would not get a fair trial. Last week the Supreme Court rejected a motion for recusal of the court - a final attempt by Nakazaki to avoid the trial - in a matter of hours.

From the time Fujimori and Montesinos first met, before the second round of elections in 1990, the latter — a former captain who was dishonorably discharged from the army after he was accused of spying for the CIA and who went on to work as a lawyer for drug traffickers — showed the then-presidential candidate the value of confidential information about one's rival, or enemy.

Montesinos gave Fujimori a copy of transcripts of taped phone conversations of Vargas Llosa, the candidate's adversary in the presidential runoff election, which he got from his contacts in the SIN.

Right then and there, Fujimori, a newcomer to politics, hired Montesinos as his personal adviser.

Once Fujimori was elected, Montesinos set up vast wiretapping operations, which even targeted the government palace, according to testimony by members of the military who were posted there, as well as leading political opponents and reporters investigating the regime's corruption.

During the 1995 campaign, in which Fujimori was seeking reelection, Montesinos funneled millions of dollars in SIN funds to bribes in exchange for favourable media coverage.

Montesinos secretly videotaped himself bribing officials, judges, publishers and lawmakers in his office, making thousands of what came to be known as 'vladivideos.'

One of the tapes showed him handing two million dollars in public funds to representatives of the Cable Canal de Noticias (CCN), a local cable news channel, for a 75 percent stake in the station.

Montesinos also testified that when the governing party failed to win a majority in Congress in the 2000 elections, Fujimori ordered him to secure votes by means of bribes.

Fujimori's regime crumbled amidst the corruption scandal that was triggered when several 'vladivideos' were leaked to the press.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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