A closely-monitored businessman in Uruguay has been arrested for allegedly laundering some $25 million in drug money for Peru’s former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
Sergio Hermida, a football contractor and president of Montevideo’s second division Waston basketball team, has been monitored since 2008, according to a report in Diario16. Over the past two years investigations began to show that he had allegedly laundered money for Montesinos.
The money laundering transactions took place between 2006 and 2007, when Montesinos was already in jail, at the maximum security facilities at the Navy base in Callao. Montesinos was arrested in Panama in 2001, after fleeing Peru shortly before President Fujimori’s resignation, and has been held at the Navy facilities ever since.
Hermida, initially through a foreign exchange business he later closed, began laundering money for Montesinos with an initial transfer in 2006 of $93,000 and then made around 256 subsequent transactions that varied between $5000 and $100,000 each.
Hermida, whose wife is also under arrest, is being charged with laundering the gains from illicit drug trafficking.
During President Alberto Fujimori’s administration, Montesinos gained control of drug trafficking operations throughout Peru, charging fees to cocaine producers and traffickers who were then able to continue operating. Because of his key position in the Fujimori government and his relationship with the CIA, the U.S. granted entry to Miami of Aero Continente, an airline built on proceeds from cocaine traffic. The airline, now defunct, was owned by Fernando Zevallos, listed later by the U.S. government as a drug kingpin. In 2005, a Peruvian court convicted Zevallos of drug trafficking and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Charges of contract killing could not be fully proven.
The judge seeing the case in Montevideo, Nestor Valetti, said investigations will continue because the final destination of the money has yet to be determined.
The news broke over the weekend, just after Vladimiro Montesinos had appeared in court to refuse to testify against former President Alberto Fujimori, on trial for using military funds without authorization in order to bribe tabloid newspaper owners to toe an editorial line dictated by Fujimori with Montesinos.
Analysts have occasionally questioned whether Montesinos still wields influence, considering that he wielded the national intelligence service for 10 years and the Fujimori government allegedly bribed or blackmailed hundreds of people in positions of influence. These questions came to the fore late last year in a scandal of police protection for Oscar Lopez Meneses, with links to top military brass and to the current and previous governments, and at one time a fairly close aide to Montesinos.