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Guevara Reward in Peru Spy Case Blocked by 11th Circuit

by admin on June 27, 2010

In December 2000, Jose Guevara, a former Venezuelan intelligence agent, was introduced by his second cousin to an international fugitive, the target of an international manhunt.

Then, spurred in part by the allure of a $5 million reward, Guevara helped authorities capture the fugitive, former Peruvian spy master Vladimiro Montesinos.

Montesinos’ capture was considered a success — he had been convicted of an illegal arms trade, embezzlement and abuse of power, among others — and arguably could not have been accomplished without Guevara’s help.

Now, nearly 10 years later, Guevara has not seen a penny of the reward money, and is increasingly unlikely to ever reap his reward. A U.S. appeals court last week ruled that a lawsuit brought by Guevara against Peru is invalid, dashing his attempt to recoup the money.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court ruling that found Peru should cough up the cash.

U.S. | 11th Circuit Court Ruling

According to an associated press story, the panel’s decision came more than nine years after Guevara cooperated with U.S. authorities and double-crossed Vladimiro Montesinos in a series of twists and turns that led to his capture.

The Montesinos/Guevara Story

Montesinos had power over the military and security forces in Peru from 1990 to 2000, allegedly using influence, bribery and blackmail to achieve his goals. After the autocratic 10-year reign of ex-President Alberto Fujimori ended in 2000, Montesinos fled to Venezuela and “then, it seemed, into thin air,” the court said.

Peruvian authorities, meanwhile, launched a manhunt and in April 2001 offered a $5 million reward for his capture. But they had little luck until the FBI was tipped off in June 2001 that Guevara was coming to Miami to collect money from a bank.

FBI agents intercepted him and told him he could avoid prosecution and collect Peru’s reward if he helped find Montesinos. Guevara dished out the details, revealing Montesinos’ location and Caracas and arranging for Venezuelan forces to arrest him.

Montesinos was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison in Peru for bribing lawmakers and businessmen and selling weapons to Colombian rebels.

But Peru refused to pay the reward to Guevara, who had since moved to Florida, and claimed that American law made it immune from any lawsuit. Guevara countered by filing a lawsuit contending that Peru had breached its contract and was fraudulently induced into helping authorities. (Michael Diaz Jr. represents Guevara in this case.)

A federal judge sided with Guevara in September 2008, ruling that he had fulfilled his end of the bargain when he helped authorities apprehend Montesinos. But Peru’s attorneys appealed the ruling and warned that allowing it to stand could complicate U.S. relations with the South American nation.

The 11th Circuit disagreed, concluding that the case didn’t meet the complicated threshold that allows foreign governments to face legal action in the U.S. “We agree with Peru that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and therefore reverse its judgment,” the ruling said. (Law.com)

Guevara’s Attorneys

In our opinion the case is a “simple, garden variety breach of contract action.” I am surprised by the 11th Circuit’s ruling and worried that it could set a “dangerous precedent” that makes it harder for law enforcement to convince informants to cooperate.

Welching by your neighbor to pay a reward for helping find his lost dog Fido is one thing. Welching by the government of Peru working with our FBI in an international manhunt with a reward posted on a borderless website is quite another.

We vow to continue the fight and correct this injustice to Mr. Guevara; a deal is a deal and the court got it wrong this go around and in the process has set a dangerous and intellectually dishonest precedent that simply cannot stand.

See also International Judicial Monitor for United States: Guevera v. Peru, (11th Cir.) for Case Notes.

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