Prisoners Paid for Pardons, Witnesses Testify

Narco-pardons - Sarita ColoniaThe first two witnesses at the so-called  ‘narco pardons’ trial this week have  stated that  the Pardons Commission set up during President Alan Garcia’s administration granted reduced sentences or full pardons only to convicts who paid for the  privilege.

During the six-hour hearing held at the Piedras Gordas prison in Ancon, Henry Cutipa and Marco Galvez, both state witnesses, said that a Slovak drug trafficker paid $15,000 to have his sentence reduced from 15 to six years, which he had already served, while a Peruvian kingpin, Herless Diaz, was asked to pay $100,000.

Cutipa and Galvez were serving prison sentences when they were approached to work with the pardons commission within the prison. At the hearing they both gave details of prisoners, payments, and the manner in which the commission operated.

Cutipa has been serving a 20-year prison sentence in the Lurigancho prison. His sentence is now to be reduced to nine years and five months in exchange for turning state witness.

The commission, headed by Facundo Chinguel, who is the key defendant of 13 men charged in the trial, only operated while the Justice minister was Aurelio Pastor, a leading figure in the APRA party.  Both Pastor and Chinguel were ousted from the Justice Ministry following the scandal of the pardon granted to TV magnate José Enrique Crousillat, who was serving a sentence for having received funds from spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos to maintain his flagging TV channel, America TV.

Former corruption prosecutor Julio Arbizu believes the two testimonies give sufficient proof for the state attorney’s office to investigate former President Alan Garcia in the pardons case.  Garcia signed the pardons and commutations, and in some cases made annotations n the margin.  Of the more than 4,000 prisoners released or given reduced sentences, more than 3,000 were either drug ‘mules’ or families or gangs of traffickers.

“What these two first witnesses have said convincingly confirms the charges, and puts back on the table the fact that if the 13 persons {charged} are convicted, justice will only be partial because none of them had the capacity to make decisions,” Arbizu said.

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