'Death squad' man jailed over false passport

A man from Peru allegedly linked to paramilitary death squads in south America has been jailed for 12 months for having a false passport.

Rodrigo Grande Vargas, 47, was arrested by counter-terrorism police who raided his home in Tiverton, Devon, in March.

Exeter Crown Court heard that during immigration interviews he described his activities in Peru.

The court heard he was likely to be deported after his sentence but was planning to leave the UK anyway.

Grande Vargas, of Barrington Street, Tiverton, had been linked to activities carried out in the early 1990s by government-backed paramilitary death squads who tortured and murdered left-wing guerrillas in Peru, the court heard.

He arrived in the UK and claimed asylum in 2002 after previously living in the Ukraine. His claim was rejected.

Prosecutor Ann Reddrop said: "During 2003 and 2004 he was interviewed by immigration officers in connection with this application. As a result of what he told them about his activities in Peru, a criminal investigation was started."

The passport, found at his rented property, was discovered the day he was arrested, she said.

It was a genuine document belonging to a Spaniard which had expired in 2004 and had Grande Vargas's own photograph placed on top of the real one.

'Curiosity' keepsake

When interviewed, Grande Vargas said he had been given it by a friend.

Representing Grande Vargas, Bathsheba Cassel said her client had kept it out of curiosity and had not intended to use it.

Sentencing Grande Vargas, Judge Philip Wassall accepted that it was never used but rejected that it was kept out of curiosity.

He said: "It was only when the police attended your home to arrest you for crimes committed in Peru and the property was searched that the passport in question came to light.

"Your reason for holding on to it is unclear, as is your reason for obtaining it in the first place."

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