Tangle of bank accounts unwound: Peru recuperates more than $12 million in funds tied to former spy chief Vladimirio Montesinos

Authorities have recovered more than $12 million deposited in various bank accounts belonging to people tied to a Mafia led by former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, Peru’s top anti-corruption prosecutor Carlos Briceño said Friday.

The funds were deposited in Peruvian and Swiss banks in the 1990s — a time when Peru witnessed the creation of one of the most extensive state-run networks of corruption in Latin American history.

The “Godfather” of this Mafia was Montesinos, who is currently serving 20 years in prison on multiple convictions for everything from bribing media barons, judges and legislators to selling assault rifles to Colombian FARC guerrillas. He is currently on trial, accused of directing the Colina paramilitary death squad and coordinating provacotuers who infilitrated a massive anti-government protest in July 2000 to torch the National Bank headquaters to discredit opponents of his boss, ex-President Alberto Fujimori. The fire killed six people.

A master of subterfuge, Montesinos cultivated an atmosphere of paranoia and fear among Peru’s political, business and military elite with rumors that he kept a vast collection of wiretapped phone conversations and videos documenting orgies, illicit drug use and myriad acts of corruption.

Bank accounts were traced back to former Commander in Chief of the Army, Nicolás de Bari Hermoza Ríos, now-deceased General Oscar Villanueva Vidal, and arms dealer James Stone.

From Ríos, who formed part of the triumvirate along with Fujimori and Montesinos, the government seized $41,000 stashed in two separate Peruvian banks accounts, and approximately $93,000 from Villanueva.

A 1976 graduate of the School of the Americas, or the US military’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, Ríos is one of the alleged masterminds of the Colina group death squad’s operations and of the subsequent cover-ups.

The Colina group machine gunned 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy, in a squalid tenement building in Lima’s Barrios Altos district in 1991 and kidnapped and murdered nine students and one professor at La Cantuta University in 1992.

Ríos, now jailed in Lima’s San Jorge prison, refused to let the Peruvian Congress question officers involved in the La Cantuta massacre. He also issued public threats against the commission investigating the case and paraded tanks through the streets of Lima as part of his intimidation tactics.

The Peruvian government also repatriated more than $8 million from Swiss bank accounts registered to Stone. Extradited to Peru from Miami in April 2004, Stone testified that he regularly met with Montesinos, and sold equipment to the Peruvian military. He received a three-year suspended sentence in exchange for cooperating with authorities.

All repatriated funds are to be transferred to the Special Fund for the Administration of Money Obtained Illicitly from the State, or Fedadoi.

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