Peru's ex-spy chief convicted of first of 70 criminal charges

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

LIMA, Peru -- Vladimiro Montesinos, once one of Peru's most feared men, was convicted Monday of usurping office -- the first of more than 70 criminal charges ranging from arms smuggling to homicide that the ex-spymaster faces.

Montesinos, accused of orchestrating a vast network of corruption during former President Alberto Fujimori's rule, was sentenced to nine years in prison for seizing control of the National Intelligence Service while serving as an adviser to the agency.

The charge comes 19 months after a bribery scandal involving the former spy chief triggered the collapse of Fujimori's decade-long authoritarian rule.

Judge Saul Pena fined Montesinos, 57, the equivalent of $2.8 million along with a prison term of nine years and four months -- a stiff sentence for a relatively minor charge. Prosecutors had requested only a seven-year sentence.

Montesinos, wearing a black windbreaker and dark slacks, reacted coolly as a court secretary read the verdict in a makeshift courtroom at a naval base outside Lima where he is being held in a maximum-security prison.

When asked if he had anything to say, Montesinos said quietly that he would exercise his right to appeal.

Under Peruvian law, minor charges like usurpation of office are prosecuted in expedited trials without public hearings.

A judge rules based on closed-door testimony and evidence gathered.

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