Ex-Spy Chief Said Fled Peru in Boat

Associated Press -- 13 December 2000

by Rick Vecchio

LIMA, Peru - Fugitive ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos fled Peru in a yacht and was last seen three weeks ago on a sail boat off Costa Rica, according to testimony by three army officers broadcast Wednesday.

According to the account, which could not be confirmed, Montesinos fled Peru on Oct. 29 and spent a week holed up in a small hotel in the Galapagos Islands, before continuing his island-hopping escape with Venezuela as his apparent destination.

The tale of Montesinos' high seas journey was carried by radio and television, part of a videotaped statement sent to Congresswoman Anel Townsend, a member of a congressional committee investigating him. The men claimed to be members of Montesinos' security detail since 1996.

Montesinos, ousted President Alberto Fujimori's security adviser, is wanted on charges from money-laundering and influence-peddling to directing death squads.

Rumors as to his whereabouts have swirled since he returned to Peru in late September after a failed asylum bid in Panama. Many people thought he was still in Peru, shielded by his allies in the armed forces.

A videotape of Montesinos apparently bribing a congressman led to the scandal that eventually toppled Fujimori, who is now in Japan.

Townsend said she had verified many of the dates, locations and names mentioned by army Maj. Alejandro Montes, Capt. Javier Perez and technician Manuel Tullume. The men gave the following account:

After returning from Panama, they holed up with Montesinos for a week in a house in an exclusive Lima neighborhood with the knowledge of top military leaders.

Montesinos and the men slipped out of the country before dawn from Lima's port of Callao on a yacht called the ``Carisma,'' sailing for nearly seven days before reaching Isabela, one of the most remote islands in the Galapagos group, 600 miles off Ecuador.

For a week, the men stayed in a small hotel, while Montesinos remained on the boat during the days, only going ashore by night to avoid being recognized.

The men said it was on Isabela that they learned that Swiss authorities had frozen more than $48 million in bank accounts linked to Montesinos, which investigators later alleged were the proceeds of shady arms deals.

They said that at point they wanted to abandon Montesinos, who implored them to stay, saying they ``were like a family,'' Tullume said. Having no money to reach the mainland, they agreed.

Montesinos called a friend in Venezuela to arrange for a private plane to pick him up. But then he dashed the idea when he was told the trip to Venezuela would require a stopover in Ecuador's coastal city of Guayaquil, where he feared he would be recognized.

Instead, they set sail north to Costa Rica's Coco Island, a national park 350 miles off the mainland with no immigration office and few officials to spot them.

From there, Montesinos once again used his satellite phone to contact his Venezuelan friend to send a sail boat that would rendezvous with the yacht at sea.

Montes was the only one of the three who went with Montesinos, and said he saw him get onto the other boat.