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5 months ago
Peru edges closer to clawing back $50 mln from Fujimori arms deals
March 17, 2017 / 8:52 PM / 5 months ago

Peru edges closer to clawing back $50 mln from Fujimori arms deals

* Peru due up to $50 mln from Swiss, Luxembourg accounts

* Cash linked to Fujimori-era weapons deals

By John Miller

ZURICH, March 17 (Reuters) - Peru is moving closer to recovering up to $50 million linked to corrupt arms deals involving ex-president Alberto Fujimori, according to a Swiss-based group assisting its efforts.

It said about a third of that sum could be returned in the coming months, starting as early as April, once courts in Switzerland and Luxembourg resolve disputes over frozen bank accounts.

Peru is trying to wrest back the funds in an ongoing 15-year-old corruption probe against Fujimori and his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who are both in jail for corruption.

They are suspected of getting "commissions" from weapons dealers that were secretly deposited into overseas bank accounts.

Peru has already recovered about $93 million linked to the 1990s arms deals, which included a purchase of Russian MiG-29 fighter jets, said the Basel Institute on Governance, the legal assistance group helping Peru.

Another $17 million -- some $1.5 million from Swiss accounts and $15.5 million from Luxembourg -- could be returned in the next few months, while recovery of $33 million in five other accounts in the two countries is less advanced, it said.

In one case outlined in a Swiss court ruling, the Russian company that sold Peru the MiG-29 jets deposited $16 million into Zurich bank accounts linked to Fujimori and Montesinos, according to court documents.

A portion of that money, now totalling nearly $1 million including interest, was then transferred to a separate account controlled by the man who signed the sales contract for the Russian company.

A three-judge panel of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, in a ruling made public last week, rejected the man's last-ditch appeal to unfreeze his account and block repatriation to Peru.

The man's name has not been released by Swiss courts. Felix Fischer, one of his two lawyers in Zurich, declined to comment on the case, citing attorney-client privilege.

"The decisions are important because they bring new insight into legal practice advancing the fight against corruption and the recovery of stolen assets," the Basel group said.

A decision on the Luxembourg accounts is due to be announced in early April, said its managing director, Gretta Fenner.

Peru's Attorney General Pablo Sanchez Velarde did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the transfers or when they could take place.

The Basel organisation said this is the first time a Peruvian confiscation order in a corruption case is being executed in a foreign jurisdiction. "Peru is writing history with these cases," it said. (Reporting by John Miller in Zurich, Mitra Taj in Lima; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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