The once-feared head of Peru’s spy services, Vladimiro Montesinos, went on trial Tuesday on charges that he helped smuggle guns to leftist Colombian rebels, allegedly with help from the
The judge in charge of the case announced that she will call for testimony from CIA Director George Tenet, as well as Robert Gorelick, the CIA Lima station chief in 1999.
Montesinos, the former right-hand man of disgraced president Alberto Fujimori, went on trial at this naval base just west of Lima on charges that he helped smuggle 10,000 Kalashnikov automatic rifles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America’s largest insurgency.
If convicted, Montesinos, 58, faces 20 years in prison.
Judge Ines Villa announced that she wants Tenet to testify following a request from Estela Valdivia, Montesinos’s defense lawyer. According to court sources, Tenet may testify either by questionnaire or via teleconference.
Ronald Gamarra, the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor, said he believes Montesinos had support from the US Central Intelligence Agency in the arms deals.
Prosecutors did not have “solid proof” of the connection, Gamarra said in a weekend interview with the daily El Comercio. However there were “many indications that could prove this relationship.”
Montesinos’ goal was to “ingratiate himself once again with the CIA,” which at the time was attempting to “radicalize the fight against the FARC,” Gamarra told the newspaper.
Gamarra however bemoaned the CIA’s failure to help out in this investigation, “despite the requirements of Peruvian law.”
Anti-corruption prosecutor Luis Vargas told Colombian radio network RCN that there is information showing that CIA agents collaborated with Montesinos in gun smuggling operation.
According to the charges, Montesinos, with the backing of Fujimori’s government, formed a criminal organization that bought at least 10,000 AKM automatic rifles in Jordan.
Peruvian army officers # or agents posing as army officers # completed the purchase. But instead of going to Peru the guns were air dropped into FARC-controlled territory in southern Colombia in the first half of 1999.
Montesinos kept silent throughout the day, much as he has done during his five other trials. He has yet to face charges of illegal enrichment, human rights violations and money laundering, among others.
The court will also decide on the fate of 37 other people, including former military officers, a number of Ukrainians # and French national Charles Acelor, extradited to Peru from Germany just over one year ago.
Acelor is accused of acting as an intermediary for some of the deals. He faces 15 years behind bars.
Alleged Lebanese arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, who has not been detained, is suspected of aiding Montesinos in the shipping of the arms.
Montesinos was present when, in August 2000, Fujimori denounced the operation, three months before his government collapsed.
But those detained in the case charged he knew of the shipments and once Fujimori left office, authorities said they had evidence of Montesinos’s implication in the arms trafficking case.
During the 1970s, Montesinos, a former army captain, was at one point accused of treason and held by military authorities on grounds he sold military information to the CIA.
But once he became Fujimori’s close advisor, in 1990, files on the incident disappeared and he ended up in a position of control over the armed forces.
Fujimori, president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, resigned in disgrace hurt in large part by widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of power surrounding Montesinos.
Montesinos fled the country, and after a lengthy manhunt was captured in Venezuela in June 2001.
The trial is being held in a special courtroom built inside a maximum security prison at a naval base in El Callao, just east of Lima. Montesinos, who is being held at the prison, originally ordered the site built to hold the country’s top guerrilla leaders.
Fujimori currently lives in Tokyo, protected from extradition by Japanese nationality laws.