Paradis fiscaux et judiciaires

Peru spy chief’s Swiss millions frozen ; key ally quits

vendredi 3 novembre 2000

Peru spy chief’s Swiss millions frozen ; key ally quits

November 3, 2000

Web posted at : 11:10 p.m. EST (0410 GMT)

LIMA, Peru — The secret world of Peru’s former spy chief began to unravel Friday after the government launched a probe into allegations he laundered some $50 million, and he lost a key ally when the attorney general resigned.

President Alberto Fujimori said in a news conference that he was surprised and frustrated by the latest allegations against Vladimiro Montesinos, and said he had no prior knowledge of any of it.

"Montesinos has not left the country," Fujimori said. "The search for him is still going on. It’s not just a question of finding him now ; we have issued a judicial mandate to detain him."

It was Montesinos’ appearance in a videotape, apparently bribing an opposition congressman, that set off the crisis that led Fujimori to offer to hold new elections and then leave office, not long after his reelection to a third straight term.

Montesinos has been in hiding since his October 23 return from a failed asylum bid in Panama, and he is rumored to be protected by his military allies.

Fujimori said the $50 million deposited by his former spy chief is Swiss banks is without a doubt illicit, derived from money laundering.

"I am the first to deplore these illegalities," Fujimori said. "I knew absolutely nothing about an act of corruption of this nature."

Peru to probe finances

For years, Montesinos controlled much of Peru’s military and judiciary, manipulating legal cases to undercut Fujimori’s rivals and quash any criminal complaints against him, judicial experts say.

But he appeared to suffer a critical blow Friday morning with the resignation of Attorney General Blanca Nelida Colan.

In 1996, she dismissed allegations from a high-profile drug trafficker that he had paid Montesinos $50,000 a month in exchange for free use of a jungle air strip to ship out the drugs.

Twice in the last three years, Colan’s department apparently shelved probes of Montesinos’ personal wealth, including an investigation after the discovery last December by an opposition congressman of what was said to be a Peruvian bank account in Montesinos’ name with some $2 million from unknown sources.

Justice Minister Alberto Bustamante announced late Thursday that Peru would investigate Montesinos’ finances after judicial authorities in Zurich, Switzerland, informed Peru they had frozen five accounts as part of a criminal investigation of possible money laundering by Fujimori’s former intelligence adviser.

"(We have) ordered the lifting of his bank secrecy both nationally and internationally," Bustamante said in Lima, adding the government had appointed an investigative judge.

DEA help may be sought

Zurich District Attorney Dieter Jann said the banks involved were the Swiss branches of Bank Leumi Le-Israel, Fibi Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

The accounts were held in the name of companies rather than Montesinos himself, Jann said. He did not explain how the funds were linked to Montesinos.

Jann told Reuters that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration might be asked for help in the search after widespread allegations of Montesinos’ involvement with drug traffickers. "We have so far had no contact with the DEA," Jann said. "We will consider whether to make contact."

The Swiss investigation began October 5 — less than two weeks after Montesinos fled Peru.

Not first allegations

Since rising to power when Fujimori first took office in 1990, Montesinos has faced allegations of trafficking in arms and ordering death squads to kill suspected leftist guerrillas.

But until the corruption allegations were made in September, Fujimori had always defended his spy chief, whom he credited with helping the government defeat leftist rebels and the illicit drug trade in this nation of 25 million people.

Bustamante said Friday that Montesinos’ precise location remained unknown. He dismissed reports that Montesinos had fled to Morocco. "Montesinos is in Peru. There is no other working hypothesis," Bustamante told radio station CPN.

Swiss banks have been working to tighten regulations against money laundering since the 1980s when they were embarrassed by disclosures that former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had deposited millions of dollars in Swiss banks.

But problems have continued. The Swiss bank regulator recently rebuked six institutions for failing to take sufficient care in accepting millions of dollars linked to the late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha. Some $645 million in Abacha-related funds remains frozen.

A special prosecutor, Jose Carlos Ugaz, was assigned "specifically to begin legal action," Bustamante said Thursday, and to "initiate measures to shed light on these presumed criminal activities."

With this latest twist, even some of Montesinos’ most vocal defenders appeared to distance themselves from him.

"This information is like a bucket of cold water," said pro-government Congresswoman Martha Chavez. "It’s a very painful situation, but I believe the truth must come out."

CNN Correspondent Claudia Cisneros, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Source CNN.

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