Chile

Pinochet report welcomed in Chile

BBC
March 17, 2005

The Chilean government has welcomed a US Senate report that found former military ruler Augusto Pinochet hid at least $13m (£6.7m) in US bank accounts.

A Chilean official said the report would be made available to a judge investigating allegations of fraud and tax evasion.

The report found that Gen. Pinochet, his family and senior officers had set up 125 bank accounts, mostly in the US.

Gen. Pinochet’s lawyers rejected the report as a “real joke.”

The senate investigation revealed Gen. Pinochet and his family members used the bank accounts to hide and launder funds over the course of at least 25 years.

Correspondents say the scale of the alleged fraud has shocked Chile, where even hardened supporters of the country’s former military ruler have been disheartened.

Compensation

“Using fake identities, fake diplomatic passports and secret accounts, it amounted to actions equivalent to laundering money,” said Carmen Hertz, one of a team of lawyers hoping to strip Gen. Pinochet, 89, of his immunity as a former president.

Human rights activists in Chile, where thousands disappeared or were tortured during Gen. Pinochet’s rule from 1973 to 1990, welcomed the report.

Fabiola Letelier, a human rights lawyer whose sister died in a car bomb in Washington in 1976, told the BBC the money should be recovered and handed back to victims of the military regime.

Gen. Pinochet’s lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, said all the bank accounts belonged to Chilean military attaches and other officials posted abroad, not to Gen. Pinochet or his family.

The US report says that eight of the accounts were opened in the name of Chilean military officers and served as occasional conduits for Gen. Pinochet’s funds.

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