Pinochet: he who loses wins

13 June 2005 by MYRIAM HERNANDEZ

On 7 June, former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet had a day of victory and defeat. The victory was the Santiago appeal court's decision to end proceedings against him and his former interior minister, retired General Cesar Benavides, on charges relating to the repression of political opponents as part of Operation Condor. The defeat came from the plenary hearing at the same court, which lifted his political immunity in the case of the millions of dollars deposited in Riggs Bank in Washington, DC.

Sergio Munoz, the Chilean judge heading the investigation into the Riggs case, charged Pinochet with four offences: tax fraud, forging passports and documents of the under-secretariat of war, false declaration of assets in 1989 and acts of deception with regard to Spanish justice. In July 2004, a US Senate commission published a report on Pinochet's secret bank accounts at the Riggs. In Chile, the national tax office and state defence council immediately filed a complaint. Families of disappeared persons demanded compensation. Judge Munoz sequestered Pinochet's assets, estimated at 17 million USD, including 8 million USD in Riggs bank. However, Pinochet's lawyers have not finished prolonging the legal marathon: they can still ask the Supreme Court to maintain the immunity of the aging dictator.

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