Related topics

Former Phone Company Chief Among 12 Charged With Six Bombings

October 22, 1993 GMT

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Their plan was to set off a series of small bombs around the capital, fraying nerves and raising fears that the leftist rebels of the 1960s were back.

Then, police say, the plotters would make a killing on the stock exchange.

″Chic Terrorism,″ trumpeted a Caracas newspaper recently.

Twelve people - including several businessmen, a Navy officer, a former Navy explosives expert and two National Guard officers - were charged Thursday in a case that has dominated headlines and gossip in Caracas for weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT

Young bankers in sport shirts, a soap opera star and the president of the Caracas Stock Exchange were called to testify. Two of those charged are related by marriage to executives of one of Venezuela’s largest banks and to the Caracas newspaper, El Diario de Caracas.

Under the Venezuelan judicial process, court testimony is not made public until the judge hands down a sentence.

But police say the group planted six bombs this summer, hoping to speculate on financial markets in the ensuing panic, and killed a co-conspirator, businessman Mario Patti, after he threatened to blow the whistle.

The alleged ringleader, 32-year-old Caracas businessman Ramiro Helmeyer, faces homicide, property damage, intimidation of the public and three other charges.

Also charged with homicide and other counts was Thor Halvorssen, president of the state CANTV telephone company from 1978-1979. ″I’m not a terrorist,″ Halvorssen, 50, told reporters last week.

Nine other suspects also are in custody. Police are looking for the twelfth, a man who allegedly stole a car that was later fitted with a remote- controlled bomb.

Judge Noel Vera also freed six suspects Thursday and summoned three more witnesses to testify.

The explosions occurred between July 28 and Aug. 30 in a fashionable capital neighborhood. No one was injured, but the explosions caused a general wariness in a city that hasn’t seen terrorist attacks since guerrillas tried to overthrow the government in the 1960s.

All the bombs were crudely made except the remote-controlled device in the car, which exploded in a shopping center parking lot Aug. 18.

Authorities speculated the culprits planned to sell stocks or bonds before an explosion, then buy them back afterward at a lower price.

ADVERTISEMENT

Among those testifying was Maricarmen Regueiro, who plays the title role in the Argentine soap opera ″Princess.″ She told reporters Helmeyer was a longtime friend, but she had no part in the bombings.

Before the six small bombs, three letter bombs were sent to the Supreme Court and two justices’ homes in July. One exploded July 19 at the court, injuring three. The explosives sent to the justices’ homes were rigged not to go off.

The judge hearing the letter-bombs case, Antonio Figuera, has summoned Halvorssen, the former phone company president, to testify.