Fugitive Belaunde flown into Lima from Bolivia

Belaunde, Martin - arrival

Martin Belaunde lands in Lima, flown by helicopter from Desaguadero, on Lake Titicaca at the Bolivian border. Photo: Andina

Martín Belaunde Lossio, under investigation as a lead player in the country’s largest-known corruption network in the Ancash region, was flown into Lima this morning from the border town of Desaguadero, where Bolivia’s President Evo Morales personally handed him over to Peru’s Minister of Interior, Jose Perez Guadalupe.

He is being held at the basement jail in the Palace of Justice in downtown Lima, and will be assigned to a prison on the weekend.

The media and opposition are focusing on Belaunde’s connections to President Ollanta Humala and the first lady, Nadine Heredia — as head of the governing Nationalist party, Ms. Heredia was in the Congress today for questioning by the congressional commission investigating Belaunde’s alleged illicit activities.

However, and although Belaunde was a key campaign operator in their unsuccessful 2004 bid for the presidency —the reasons for his arrest are allegations of embezzlement and illicit business association in the Ancash region, related to the illicit surveillance center known as La Centralita. The case involves at least three important criminal operators and two members of Congress, as well as Cesar Alvarez, who was president of the region and is alleged to have ordered the assassination of at least one political opponent. Alvarez is in prison, pending trial.

Belaunde went into hiding exactly a year ago in Peru when a criminal court ordered his detention. Belaunde had initially offered to collaborate with the judiciary in exchange for leniency, but the state prosecutor for corruption cases said this was not applicable because Belaunde was a major player in the network.

In early January this year, he fled to Bolivia to stay with relatives in La Paz while he applied for refugee status to the Bolivian government, on the grounds of political persecution.    When the refugee status was denied early this month, he escaped house arrest.

In Peru, the opposition blamed the government and different government institutions blamed each other, for mistaken procedures or being too slow in the extradition process. In Bolivia, at least one head rolled —President Morales replaced his Minister of Government, Hugo Moldiz.

In Lima, state attorney Alonso Peña Cabrera, who heads Peru’s international legal cooperation and extraditions unit, said on Ideele Radio that the extradition process is not easy nor quick. “Certain international standards have to be met.”

Two days ago, as political pressure built up in Lima, Peru offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to Belaunde’s arrest.  Within 24 hours, Belaunde was found in the town of Magdalena, in northeastern Bolivia only a few dozen miles from the border with Brazil.

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