The United States Friday denied any CIA role in arms trafficking, while at the ongoing trial of Peru’s former spy chief on charges that he helped smuggle weapons to leftist Colombian guerrillas, Vladimiro Montesinos coolly smiled and posed for pictures.
Montesinos, the once-feared former right-hand man of disgraced president Alberto Fujimori, faces 20 years in prison if found guilty of helping send weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America’s largest insurgency. Fujimori was in power from 1990-2000.
The anti-corruption court in which Montesinos is being tried on Tuesday decided to seek testimony from former CIA director George Tenet in the case, on a request from Montesinos’ attorneys. The testimony could come as answers to a questionnaire or by teleconference.
Anti-corruption prosecutor Ronald Gamarra said a few days back Montesinos was believed to have had CIA support in delivering weapons to Colombian insurgents.
Montesinos’ intention was “to get on the CIA’s good side once again # as it (in 1999) was trying to get the Plan Colombia off the ground # stirring things up with the FARC in the (Colombian) jungle,” Gamarra said.
“Any statement, inference or suggestion that any US government agency was involved in arms or drug trafficking referred to in this trial are baseless,” a statement from the US embassy said. It added that the United States was confident in Peruvian authorities carrying out a full investigation and fair trial.
At the second session of the trial at a naval base west of Lima, Montesinos # who had appeared dour on his first day in court Tuesday # surprised many onlookers. He came in smiling, after doctors checked his blood pressure, then he waved at reporters and posed for pictures.
He then chatted with his attorney Estela Valdivia and finally took a seat behind Frenchman Charles Acelor, another of those on trial, and looked almost oblivious to his fate.
Prosecutor Pablo Sanchez gave a detailed explanation of the charge that Montesinos was accused of leading a criminal organization that sold 10,000 AKM-47 rifles to the FARC, which he said were purchased in Jordon and parachuted to the Colombians on four flight runs.
The court will also decide 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.
The court threw out Acelor’s request for a translator for his testimony, saying he spoke Spanish perfectly.
Montesinos was present when, in August 2000, Fujimori denounced the operation, three months before his government collapsed and he fled to his parents’ native Japan.
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 and based at their headquarters he organized a corruption network, charges against him state.
Gamarra said Montesinos sought to “ingratiate himself once more with the CIA” in 1999, as the CIA pressed to see Plan Colombia passed, aimed at radicalizing the fight against FARC in Colombia’s jungle.
Fujimori 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.