Fujimori, Escobar alleged links to be probed


LIMA, AFP

Peru’s Attorney General will open an investigation this week into reports that President Alberto Fujimori indirectly received election funds from slain Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, a state prosecutor announced.

“The State Prosecutor’s office sent a request to the Attorney General’s office to undertake the necessary investigations to determine if the report is true or not,” state prosecutor Jose Ugaz said.

According to a press report Saturday, Escobar, head of Colombia’s notorious Medellin drug cartel, gunned down in December 1993, gave US$1 million to Montesinos to use in Fujimori’s first election campaign.

Ugaz is in charge of investigating the bribery scandal surrounding Peru’s former secret police chief and top Fujimori adviser Vladimiro Montesinos.

The fugitive Montesinos stands accused of trying to bribe a former opposition lawmaker as well as holding more than 50 million dollars in Swiss and offshore bank accounts.

Fujimori, who spent Sunday morning in a closed-door meeting with his Justice Minister Alberto Bustamante, has not commented on the article, published in Cambio de Bogota Saturday.

The article quotes Roberto Escobar, brother of the late drug lord, as saying, “When Fujimori was in his first presidential electoral campaign, at the end of 1989, my brother Pablo gave money for the campaign.”

“It was a million dollars, more or less, which was sent in cash,” Escobar said in a telephone interview with the magazine.

Roberto Escobar, alias “Little Bear,” said that “Fujimori told Pablo that if he became president he would be pleased to collaborate in whatever he was able to.”

And he said Montesinos and his late brother “got on well and then began working more directly in increasingly important business deals as they got to know each other better.”

The drug lord, he said, as a result of other financial “arrangements” made with Montesinos was able to fly out of Peru in planes loaded with coca paste to be processed at Colombian cocaine laboratories.

Roberto Escobar said he was willing to give his testimony to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) but that he would not speak to the Peruvian justice authorities.

Escobar admitted he had no material proof for his claims.

The infamous drug lord’s brother is currently hospitalized in a treatment center at Itagui, near Medellin, north-west Colombia, following a letter bomb attack against him that left him virtually blind.

Meanwhile Fujimori’s ex wife, Susana Higuchi, on Sunday denied that Escobar had contributed to her husband’s 1989 campaign.

“Definitely not, that’s totally false,” she said. Higuchi, who had been in charge of handling the campaign’s finance at the time — before her bitter 1994 divorce from Fujimori — is now an opposition lawmaker.

Higuchi also said Fujimori and Montesinos became friends only after they were introduced in April 1990 by sociologist Francisco Loayza and did not know each other in 1989.

Fujimori’s first vice president of Congress, Luz Salgado, also denied Escobar could have financed Fujimori’s 1990 election campaign. She said many of his party had been forced to actively contribute to his first campaign due to lack of funds.

Montesinos was Fujimori’s close adviser until late September when the feared former intelligence chief fled to Panama seeking political asylum following a high-profile bribery scandal.

Fallout from the scandal forced Fujimori to announce early presidential and parliamentary elections, in which he will not stand.

But Montesinos surprised everybody by returning to Peru on October 23. His whereabouts remain unknown, despite what authorities claim is a national dragnet to find him.