Uruguay President’s Ex-Security Boss Jailed in Passports Scam

BARRIO – The former security chief to Uruguay’s president was sentenced Wednesday to more than four years in prison, the prosecutor’s office announced, in a scandal involving the issuing of fake passports to Russians.

Alejandro Astesiano, who was the head of President Luis Lacalle Pou’s security detail, was found guilty of an array of crimes including influence peddling, criminal association and revealing state secrets, the office said in a statement.

He had also been investigated for allegedly spying on opposition politicians.

A judge on Wednesday ratified a plea agreement and sentenced Astesiano to four and a half years in prison and a fine of some $4,000.

Astesiano was arrested in September, accused of participation in a scheme to falsify documents to allow the issuing of Uruguayan passports to Russians, according to prosecutors.

Tens of thousands of Russians have left their country since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many of them since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military call-up in September.

A Uruguayan passport allows visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 153 countries, according to the Henley passport index, ranking it the 29th-strongest travel document in the world.

After the press revealed recordings obtained from his cell phone, Astesiano was also investigated for crimes that included spying on opposition senators and peddling influence for the promotion of police officers.

His proximity to Lacalle Pou and his governing National Party has harmed the president’s image, according to opinion polls.

Lacalle Pou has denied any knowledge of the crimes and said Astesiano had “betrayed” him.

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