The verdict issued by the Supreme Court’s Special Criminal Court on July 20, 2009, condemning Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori to seven and a half years of prison in his recent corruption trial has provoked contrasting sentiments from his defense lawyer and the public prosecutor.
Fujimori was charged with paying his former advisor Vladimiro Montesinos US $15 million from public funds in the year 2000. During the trial, Fujimori’s attorney, César Nakazaki, argued that Fujimori paid this amount in an effort to dissuade his advisor from carrying out a coup d’état that Montesinos masterminded. Furthermore, Nakazaki argued that since the money had been promptly returned to the state treasury, no crime was actually committed.
However, the Court found the former president guilty of crimes against public administration, including embezzlement and moral turpitude, as argued by the Public Prosecutor. The Court also ordered the payment of civil reparations amounting to $1 million in favor of the Peruvian State and requested an investigation to be initiated regarding the origin of the $15 million Fujimori acquired to replace what had been paid to Montesinos.
In comments to local radio RPP, Nakazaki asserted that “the result was what we expected. The Judicial Power has decided to deny justice for Fujimori.”
Congressman Carlos Raffo, member of the pro-Fujimori political party, claimed that Fujimori “did not talk [in his self-defense during his trial] because of his enemies and critics that ridicule him.” He argued that the subject of this trial related to a complex history which he claims does not sit well with the judges or prosecutors who have come to disfavor the Fujimorista party.
Public Prosecutor Avelino Guillén expressed his approval of the sentence, while Nakazaki announced he will file a motion to nullify the verdict.
Local journalist and political analyst Augusto Álvarez Rodrich compared Fujimori’s justification for the $15 million to the time when the first “vladivideo,” was circulated, in which Montesinos was evidently bribing a Congressman. Fujimori’s government defended the scene, explaining that the money was being given to the congressman to buy a truck in order to distribute fish to the poor. Álvarez Rodrich claims that “inventing false stories in order to get out of problems” is one of Fujimori’s strategies.
But the journalist stressed that the most important part of this trial was Fujimori’s clear break with his former ally Montesinos. During his human rights trial, Fujimori as well as the Fujimorista party avoided blaming the former advisor for suspected crimes during the former president’s government. However, Álvarez Rodrich said this corruption trial “has pointed to strengthening the version that Montesinos was the corrupt one while Fujimori was simply naïve though well-intentioned.”
The journalist speculates that blaming Montesinos is part of the Fujimorista campaign strategy for the 2011 presidential elections. Keiko Fujimori, the former president’s daughter, is still leading the polls with 20% as the current favorite candidate.
The next trial against Fujimori is expected to begin in September and will group together three cases, including the illegal use of wire-tapping, bribing members of Congress and the irregular acquisition of the disappeared Cable News Channel (CCN). Nakazaki has told local press that Fujimori will not be taking advantage of a premature judgment for this case.