Darkest Peru

As Federico Bassahun reports, an international striker faces some serious and outlandish accusations

Claudio Pizarro recently completed a permanent move from Chelsea back to Werder Bremen, for his fourth spell at the club since first moving to Europe 11 years ago. However, that was a rare bright moment in a wretched summer for the striker.

For months now, Pizarro has been headline news in Peru. Two police investigations in which his name has appeared link him to a missing helicopter, a known drugs baron and an insurance fraud. The first case relates to an inquiry which began in March. This is into the management and representation company that Pizarro co-owns, Image, for major financial irregularities.

It began when Fiorella Faré, the wife of the company’s majority shareholder and Pizarro’s agent, Carlos Delgado, began divorce proceedings. She claimed that Pizarro had made money from the deal that took Peruvian player Roberto Silva to Werder Bremen in 2001. Pizarro told the German state treasury that he had received $900,000 (£600,000) following that deal, but claimed he had done nothing wrong. He paid the tax debt incurred by that payment in July.

According to Pizarro’s lawyer Arsenio Oré, Faré accused the player of tax evasion and money-laundering during the case. Faré denied that claim and demanded a retraction, which never came. “At the beginning, my intention was only to demand money from my husband for food and maintenance, but my lawyers found examples of other crimes,” she said.

Things took a biz­arre turn when Pizarro’s name came up in another investigation: one looking into the business dealings of Luis Díaz Lassus, who is alleged to be the right-hand man of drugs trafficker Guille Restrepo. Oré admitted that his client had a connection to Díaz Lassus: “It is true that Pizarro lent money to Díaz Lassus, through his father, but the debt was never paid back and my client had no more dealings with the man,” he said.

But Pizarro appeared in court in July and told prosecutor Jorge Chávez Cotrina that he did not know Restrepo, and that he had never lent money to Díaz Lassus, who had served in the navy with his father. In the face of evidence to the contrary, his lawyer later admitted that the money, over $700,000, had been lent. In return, Díaz Lassus, who runs the company Helica del Oriente, gave the Pizarros a Kazan MI-8T helicopter as a guarantee.

The helicopter was never delivered to Pizarro, though police believe it was used for drug-trafficking over the Colombian border. Díaz Lassus told the police that Pizarro and his father claimed insurance for the missing helicopter, an accusation that has yet to be proved. The Peruvian authorities are also investigating Restrepo after he bought control of a Peruvian helicopter company in August 2007. Díaz Lassus had founded the company in February 2007. Pizarro’s name also appears in the investigation into Restrepo’s business interests in Peru.

Pizarro’s former international team-mate Nobby Solano has spoken out on his behalf: “It’s a shame that a great person and great professional like Claudio Pizarro has been accused of such things. This is the kind of thing that hurts a lot of people. I expect that this situation will finish soon with Pizarro proving his innocence.”

At least the move to Bremen, where he scored 24 goals in 42 games last season – and two already this campaign – will give Pizarro an excuse to think about something else as the two investigations near their conclusion. No verdict is expected before the end of the year but if found guilty of tax evasion and money-laundering, Pizarro could be looking at a jail term of up to 15 years.

From WSC 272 October 2009