Ex-President Convicted of Corruption, Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Former President Salvador Jorge Blanco and two businessmen were found guilty of corruption Sunday and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In a televised interview from Atlanta, where he has been living, the former president called his conviction ″monstrous″ and pledged to return to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday to file an appeal. He was tried in abstentia.
Judge Juan Maria Severino also ordered the president and businessmen Leonel Almonte and Juan Tomas Pena Valentin to pay a total fine of $17.3 million, including $5 million they overcharged the military and police for supplies.
Six of the other eight alleged co-conspirators in the case were found innocent and the other two were to be tried separately for the same charges.
The judge’s ruling against Jorge Blanco, president from 1982 to 1986, marks the first time a former Dominican head of state was convicted of corruption.
Jorge Blanco, 60, has been living in Atlanta for the past 18 months. Under Dominican law, the former president could not present a defense or witnesses without appearing before the court.
The former president announced his intention to appeal during a telephone interview Sunday night from Atlanta broadcast on Dominican television.
Defense lawyer Ramon Morel Cerda said that the former president will be jailed as soon as he arrives. But the appeal will put the sentence on hold during a retrial.
Judge Severino found the former president, Almonte and Pena Valentin guilty of charges of embezzling about $5 million in government funds by selling equipment to the armed forces and the national police at inflated prices during Jorge Blanco’s last two years in power.
Jorge Blanco was charged with ordering the country’s military chiefs to buy 75 percent of the vehicles, uniforms, foodstuffs and other necessities for the armed forces and national police from firms owned by Pena Valentin and Almonte.
Almonte, a millionaire banker with interests in automotive dealerships throughout the Dominican Republic, and Pena Valentin, who has supplied materials to the military and police for 20 years, listened calmly to the reading of the sentence by the judge.
Both men were transferred under heavy police escort to La Victoria Prison, 12 miles from the capital.
The businessmen’s lawyers said they will appeal the convictions.