The "Vladivideos"

Vladimiro Montesinos' effort to capture the Peruvian media intensified in the late 1990s. Though constitutionally prevented from seeking a third term, President Fujimori pressed ahead with plans for his eventual reelection, so Montesinos hired a team of media consultants and set out on a systematic purchase of television stations and newspapers.

No outlet was more important to Montesinos' conquest of the media than Channel Four, Peru's most watched station. Videos secretly recorded by Montesinos show the Peruvian spy chief handing $1.5 million to Jose Francisco Crousillat, Channel Four's manager and son of the station's owner.

"There are many videos like the Crousillat tape where Montesinos comes in, sits down and pulls out large plastic supermarket-style bags filled with cash," says journalist Sally Bowen, co-author of The Imperfect Spy, a book about Montesinos. "He then ceremoniously counts out wads of money. On a couple of occasions Montesinos apologizes to the station owners for having to pay them in Peruvian currency rather than dollars. Sometimes the people on the receiving end look horrified as if to say, 'You mean I have to change this back into dollars?'"

The Crousillat tape was one of the first "Vladivideos" made public after the spy chief fled Peru in 2000.

"They just sit there counting out wads and wads of money," says Bowen. "I think this is what made such an incredible impact on the Peruvian population. Because ordinary people, from middle income to the poor, knew that these media owners were already very rich men. It was pure greed."

Peruvian prosecutors indicted Crousillat and are currently seeking his extradition from Argentina. Montesinos was captured and extradited to Peru in 2001. He is currently on trial, facing more than 70 separate indictments.

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