Chile court ends 10-year Pinochet embezzlement investigation

[JURIST] A Chilean court on Friday said that it has completed the 10-year investigation into the origin of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] fortune and his suspected embezzlement of public funds. In an unanimous decision, an an appeals court in Santiago closed the investigation, allowing Judge Manuel Valderrama to formally accuse former military members who collaborated with Pinochet in the "Riggs Bank case" [NYT backgrounder]. Pinochet was charged in 2005 with tax evasion in connection with the millions of dollars he held in foreign bank accounts, which was discovered after the US Senate's investigation into banking irregularities at the now-defunct Riggs Bank. Last year a court decided not to charge any of Pinochet's family members, but did charge six former military officers for the suspected embezzlement of public funds. An audit done by the Universidad de Chile's Business and Economic faculty in 2010 estimated [Reuters report] that Pinochet accumulated $21 million before his death, of which more than $17 million was of unknown origin.

Investigations into the finances of Pinochet and his associates have continued since his death in 2006 [JURIST report]. In June 2010 the Chilean Supreme Court released a report [JURIST report] detailing the secret fortune of the former dictator, estimating it at over $20 million. In December 2009 Spanish National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] opened an embezzlement investigation [JURIST report] against four former Pinochet associates. Pinochet's youngest son, his former secretary and his estate executor were previously indicted [JURIST report] for maliciously making false or incomplete tax declarations. In October 2007, 23 family members and former Pinochet associates were indicted [JURIST report] on corruption charges for aiding Pinochet in the "misuse of fiscal funds" during his regime. The following month, the Supreme Court of Chile upheld an appeals court decision to drop the charges [JURIST reports] because the accused were not government employees at the time and thus could not be charged with embezzling government funds.

 

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