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Former Peru Spy Chief Sentenced to Nine Year Prison Term

Peru's former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, has been sentenced to nine years in prison and fined nearly $3 million for abuse of authority.

Montesinos was convicted of usurping the duties of head of the Peruvian Intelligence System when he served as an advisor to former President Alberto Fujimori.

This is the first of some 70 court cases the former spy chief faces on charges including extortion, drug trafficking, illegal arms deals and directing a death squad.

Montesinos lawyers say they will appeal his conviction. Peruvian judges are now determining how they will deal with the series of cases against Montesinos, set to be tried in public later this year. Peruvian Congressman Rafael Valencia, of the opposition National Unity Party, said the sentence, with the likelihood of early release, does not correspond to the seriousness of the crime.

"For this case, Mr. Montesinos will only have to serve a prison term of three-and-a-half years, if I calculate correctly," Mr. Valencia said. "And this would be an extremely soft term for the enormous damage that this Fujimori advisor did."

Under Peru's justice system, convicts serve concurrent sentences, meaning any future prison terms resulting from the cases against Montesinos cannot be added on to his current sentence.

Montesinos' fall from power began in September 2000 with a videotape showing him bribing a congressman to switch to the government party. Montesinos fled the country, but was captured eight months later in Venezuela and returned to Peru.

Then-President Fujimori fled to Japan, his ancestral homeland, where he is in self-imposed exile. The Peruvian government is seeking to extradite him to face multiple charges.

A cache of videotapes found in the wake of the scandal led to charges against dozens of executive officials, judges, congressmen, military officers, and journalists.