Global Policy Forum

Spanish Judge Charges Pinochet with Money Laundering

September 16, 2004

Crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon expanded long-standing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on Thursday to include money laundering and concealment of assets. Pinochet's wife, Lucia Hiriart, and several people identified as employees of Washington-based Riggs Bank were among eight men and two women charged with the same offences, according to court documents seen by Reuters. Three were identified as Chileans, five as U.S. citizens and no nationality was given for the remaining two.

A U.S. Senate investigation into Riggs Bank revealed in July that Pinochet and his wife held up to $8 million in the bank between 1994 and 2002 and cashed several checks in Chile drawn on those accounts. Garzon also asked for the help of the Bank of Spain, and authorities in Britain, the United States and the Bahamas in tracking down and freezing any assets Pinochet held directly or indirectly in these countries. One of the 88-year-old's sons, Marco Antonio Pinochet, earlier this month said his father became a multi-millionaire because he saved, made good investments and his friends gave him money.

Garzon, a High Court judge, has been pursuing the retired general since 1998, when he won international fame with a bid to extradite Pinochet from Britain to stand trial for torture and other charges. Pinochet eventually escaped prosecution when Britain ruled him mentally unfit for trial. But some Chileans credit Garzon with kick-starting the quest to hold Pinochet, who had automatic immunity from prosecution as an ex-president, to account for human rights abuses committed during his 1973-1990 rule. The road is now open for him to be tried in Chile after the supreme court in August stripped him of that immunity. Some 3,000 people were killed or disappeared in Pinochet's anti-communist purges.

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