Former media owner released from prison

A tabloid newspaper owner convicted of taking bribes from former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos to run smear campaigns against opponents of ex-president Alberto Fujimori got an early release from prison yesterday.

Moisés Wolfenson was released from Lima’s San Jorge prison after Peru’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal, ruled that penitentiary officials miscalculated time, served during his house arrest while he faced trial, that should have been counted against his sentence.

In January 2005, a court sentenced Montesinos to eight years in prison for orchestrating the smear campaign against opposition leaders by bribing tabloid owners, directors, and publicists to fabricate headlines and stories. As a co-defendant of Montesinos, Wolfenson was charged with embezzlement and originally received a five-year sentence for using his family-owned newspapers to defame opposition politicians and journalists. That was later reduced to four years on appeal.

Former President Alejandro Toledo, who was defeated by Fujimori in a fraud-riddled election in 2000, was a prime target of two of the Wolfenson tabloids, El Chino and La Razon.

At the start of the tabloid trial in 2004, a camera crew caught on video the apparent influence that Montesinos still held over the tabloid media when he was shown jotting down notes while his co-defendant, Wolfenson, stole sidelong glances at the message:

“Tomorrow bring up the subject of consumption,” the note read.

The next day, La Razon ran a front page headline claiming the existence of a never-released cassette tape that supposedly revealed drug use by Toledo. Wolfenson steadfastly denied the story was planted at Montesinos’ behest.

Days before sentencing, La Razon on Jan. 19, 2005, published photographs — widely regarded as fakes — of Toledo naked in bed with an unidentified woman, fully clothed, laying on top of him.

Wolfenson was picked up from prison by his father-in-law Samuel Winter, a former television station owner who also faced criminal charges for accepting bribes from Montesinos to smear opponents and rivals of Fujimori’s autocratic regime.

Editor’s Note: Peruvian Times fought a two-year battle against Moisés Wolfenson in the Indecopi copyright court in the late 1990s when Wolfenson and his publishing company Editora Sport attempted to hijack the name Lima Times and register the name Peru Times. Peruvian Times won the case.

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