July 21, 2004
A court in Chile has started an investigation into allegations of corruption against the former leader Augusto Pinochet. Two human rights lawyers earlier said they had lodged accusations of fraud, embezzlement and bribery.
The claims were prompted by a US Senate report last week alleging that a US-based bank helped Gen. Pinochet hide up to $8 million and evade seizure of his assets.
A spokesman for Gen Pinochet has denied the allegations.
Gen. Pinochet’s son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, said the money in the accounts had come from decades of hard work and donations from supporters, and not from state funds.
The case is the first legal action in Chile resulting from the Senate report.
Judge Sergio Munoz was appointed to investigate after the lawyers lodged accusations of financial crimes with the Court of Appeals.
“Pinochet’s actions have to be investigated in Chile because he transferred money up until at least the year 2003 in a lucid manner and in contradiction with all the latest verdicts by Chilean courts that say he is crazy or demented,” lawyer Carmen Hertz said.
The Court of Appeals recently stripped Gen. Pinochet of immunity from prosecution, a move that paved the way for a trial on charges of human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 rule.
Previous attempts to prosecute him for human rights abuses were dismissed on medical grounds.
Last week it was announced that the bank mentioned in the Senate report, Riggs Bank, would be sold.
The report alleges it set up several accounts for Gen. Pinochet while he was under house arrest in the UK on charges of crimes against humanity.
He was held in Britain in 1998 after Spain requested his extradition on torture charges, but was allowed home in 2000 after he was adjudged too ill to stand trial.