Fujimori Sentenced to 7 1/2 Years for Embezzlement

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was
convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison
Monday after he admitted illegally paying his spy chief $15 million
in government funds.

Fujimori sat expressionless in front of the three-judge panel as
the verdict and sentence were read. He told the court he would seek
to nullify the ruling.

The conviction is the third in less than two years for the
ex-leader. He was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison for
authorizing military death squads during his 10-year rule. Earlier,
he was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to six years for
an illegal search.

Peruvian prison sentences do not accumulate, so 25 years is the
maximum term the 70-year-old Fujimori can serve.

Last week, Fujimori acknowledged making the irregular payment to
intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, but he said he should not
be held criminally responsible because he later repaid it with
money found in the headquarters of Montesinos' feared agency.

By acknowledging the payoff, Fujimori avoided a drawn-out trial
that could damage his daughter's candidacy for the 2011
presidential election. Keiko Fujimori has said she will pardon her
father if she wins.

During a spirited defense Friday that critics called a campaign
speech for his daughter, Fujimori said he was obligated to make the
payment to avoid a military coup plotted by Montesinos.

"The true judgment for me is that of the people, who have long
absolved me in their hearts," Fujimori said.

The former president still enjoys some popularity for
neutralizing Shining Path guerrillas that nearly toppled the
government, but a series of recent trials have tied him to
corruption and human rights abuses.

During his defense, Fujimori said his previous convictions and
the embezzlement case were politically motivated, and he did not
expect to find justice in court.

Presiding Judge Cesar San Martin opened the hearing Monday by
denying any political intent.

Fujimori faces yet another trial on allegations that he
authorized illegal phone taps and congressional bribes and that he
used state funds to purchase a television station to air political
propaganda.

As his government was collapsing in 2000 after a videotape
surfaced showing Montesinos bribing a congressman, Fujimori signed
an executive order transferring $15 million to the Defense Ministry
to defend against a supposed incursion of Colombian rebels in Peru.
The court ruled the money was handed over to Montesinos, who moved
it to foreign bank accounts and fled for Panama.

Montesinos is now serving a 20-year term for bribing lawmakers
and businessmen and selling weapons to Colombian rebels.

Prosecutors dispute Fujimori's claim that he found $15 million
in Montesinos' intelligence agency 41 days after the illegal payoff
and have called for a separate investigation.

The court also ruled that Fujimori must join three former
Cabinet ministers in contributing to a $1 million reparations
payment to the government.


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