U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke late today issued a final judgment against the Government of Peru in the amount of $8.3 million and in favor of Jose Guevara, a Venezuelan national who helped Peru capture its fugitive spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos in 2001. At the same time, Judge Cooke rejected Peru’s request that the Court reconsider its decision finding that Mr. Guevara had proven his entitlement to collect the reward for Montesinos’ capture.
“Peru has not set forth any grounds justifying reconsideration,” said Cooke. “Accordingly, Peru’s motion for reconsideration is denied.” Cooke’s order denying the motion went on to state that “three major grounds to justify reconsideration must be met: an intervening change in controlling law; the ability of new evidence; and the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” None were according to Cooke.
The ruling against Peru’s latest attempts reaffirmed Cooke’s September 9th summary judgment that the government of Peru owed Guevara the reward money.
“After a long, arduous fight, Mr. Guevara and his family are now one step closer to receiving the promised reward,” said Diaz, referring to Cooke’s ruling. “This is a precedent-setting case in international litigation in this post 9/11 era, where countries routinely make reward offers for the capture of terrorists, political figures and drug dealers.”
In 2001, Guevara filed to claim the widely publicized reward for providing crucial information that led directly to the arrest of Montesinos, who is now on trial in Peru on a long list of charges related to arms trafficking, drug dealing, money laundering, extortion and murder while he headed Peru’s National Intelligence Service in the 1980s.
However, the Peruvian government reneged on its reward offer and since then, Peru’s legal team has used a variety of tactics in its efforts to avoid payment. However, Guevara’s claim has withstood all those challenges, said Gonzalez, who noted that the decision represents a dual victory for Guevara and the community-at-large.
“By enforcing Peru’s promise to pay Mr. Guevara, the U.S. courts have recognized the basic principle that a party will be held to its word,” he said. “If a government or a governmental entity is going to offer a reward in exchange for information that it cannot otherwise obtain on its own, then it must be prepared to pay that reward.”
In her Nov. 7th decision, Cooke rejected counterclaims by the Peruvian government that Guevara, who was Montesinos’ guard for several months in Venezuela, had stolen funds from that nation, aided Montesinos in stealing government money and enriched himself at the government’s expense.
“Guevara never received any money from the defendants directly,” said Cooke in her ruling. “There was no evidence for conspiracy or aiding and abetting the conversion of funds. There was no evidence of a benefit to Guevara.”
Seven years ago, Guevara filed his suit in the U.S. to claim the reward. The Peruvian government then sought to dismiss the case under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which protects foreign governments from U.S. lawsuits. Diaz and Gonzalez argued that by offering a reward, Peru had engaged in “commercial activity,” which is an exception to the FSIA.
On November 1, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld Guevara’s position and ruled the case could continue in the U.S. The Peruvian government then filed a series of counterclaims, which were dismissed in Cooke’s summary judgment.
Looking ahead, Diaz said, “I am not sure when Mr. Guevara will be paid, given the recent resignation of Peru’s entire Presidential Cabinet for allegations of corruption and kickbacks, but at least they now know the U.S. judicial system is not a place for them to seek refuge from their legal responsibilities.”