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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 22:24 GMT 23:24 UK
Montesinos witness 'found shot dead'
Vladimiro Montesinos [l]
The Montesinos case is uncovering a web of corruption
A retired Peruvian army general described as a key witness in the corruption trial of former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos has been found dead in an apparent suicide.

Oscar Villanueva was found with a gunshot wound to the head at his brother's house late on Sunday and farewell notes to his brother and wife were found by the body, the Peruvian authorities said.


It was an apparent suicide

Mercedes Velez
prosecutor
Police are interviewing the last people known to have seen the general, who was himself facing corruption charges, alive.

If his suicide is confirmed, General Villanueva will be the second retired senior officer to have killed himself in connection with the Montesinos case.

"It was an apparent suicide," said prosecutor Mercedes Velez.

The general was under house arrest and faced charges of embezzlement and conspiracy.

He also faced allegations of using $20,000 in state funds to buy jewels for Montesinos to give to a popular TV personality, Laura Bozzo.

'Worried'

General Villanueva's lawyer, Hernan de la Fuente, said his client had been co-operating with the courts and, while "worried" about his forthcoming trial, had been "facing it bravely".

"I spoke with him via phone around 2 pm on Friday regarding the session where he was to appear before the judge," he recalled.

"He seemed okay, calm, relaxed. We even spoke regarding later strategies for his defence."

Vladimiro Montesinos, security chief under disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori, has been serving a nine-year prison term since being convicted of corruption in July.

Blamed for widespread corruption while in office, he still faces numerous other charges.

He is suspected of giving Laura Bozzo $3m and the TV presenter was herself put under house arrest in July.

In the same month, Colonel Francisco Nunez killed himself after being called to testify in the Montesinos case.


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20 Aug 02 | Americas
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