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Peru spy chief is "dead man walking" - wife

Peru spy chief is "dead man walking" - wife

Thanks to her husband, Trinidad Montesinos is under house arrest in Peru. Her 25-year-old daughter is in jail, as are her brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Her family name is, quite simply, mud.

But the middle-aged woman keeps faith in Vladimiro Montesinos, her reserved, bookworm husband whom she fears is a "dead man walking" due to a manhunt spanning Latin America.

Ex-President Alberto Fujimori's former aide and spy chief is accused of running a drugs and arms mafia and has been in hiding since a bribery scandal sank Fujimori last year.

"My husband is neither better or worse than the rest of them. He may have made mistakes but everyone is part of the same, one system," the red-haired Trinidad told Reuters in a rare interview at her plush 12th floor Lima apartment.

She is probably Montesinos' only defender. Accusations mount day by day of her husband's alleged skimming off of profits from illegal drugs and arms deals to amass a fortune in Swiss bank accounts while Fujimori's top aide until September.

"Fujimori knew about everything," she said, in her living room, with walls covered in mirrors from floor to ceiling.

Montesinos was the center of a bribery scandal when a video was leaked showing him allegedly handing over $15,000 to a lawmaker. The scandal led to Fujimori's sacking and sparked fears of a military coup by officers loyal to the spy chief.

State prosecutors are combing through over 700 videos belonging to the spy chief who secretly filmed meetings with a "Who's Who" of Peru, including top politicians and judges.

Witnesses say the ex-spy chief fled the country by yacht in October to head for Costa Rica or Venezuela. But there have been no confirmed sightings, adding mystery to a man known as "Rasputin" for being the power behind Fujimori's throne.

"Who knows where he is!" Trinidad said, flaying her arms into the air. She - like everyone else in the country - doubts he would willingly face the courts.

"He is a dead man walking. If her returns to Peru they will either kill him or give him a summary trial," she said.

FLAWED WORKAHOLIC, BUT LOVING

She painted a picture of a loving, workaholic husband with a taste for Bach. A husband who gave his wife a wealthy lifestyle but who had an affair with a secretary. A father who loved his children but only spent two nights a month at home.

"Rather than take his daughter to a toy shop for her birthday, he would take her to a bookshop." said Trinidad.

She is under house arrest, suspected of knowingly benefiting from her husband's wealth. A local magazine showed her credit-card record of thousands of dollars spent in clothes and jewelry boutiques in Zurich, New York and Amsterdam.

"It (the allegation) is an abuse, as if a wife would ever question how her husband pays for their credit cards," she said.

Suspicions over her daughter Silvana led to her jailing last weekend under anti-corruption laws passed by interim President Valentin Paniagua, who replaced Fujimori in November. They allow suspects to be held for 15 days without charge.

It is her daughter's arrest that most hurts, and she forced back the tears more than once during the interview. "My husband would also cry no matter how much of a man he is," she said. The last time she saw him he was "sad, beaten down," she added.

What would she say to her husband now?

"I would say...I would not know what to say," Trinidad Montesinos said, hesitating.

"I could not say anything," she added, shrugging her shoulders with a crumpled newspaper on her lap that featured a photo of her tearful daughter splashed across the page.


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