Pinochet arrested for fraud

Two days before his ninetieth birthday, General Pinochet was charged with fraud, providing falsified documents and making false declarations to avoid paying tax.

Prosecutor Carmen Hertz said he has a long legal battle ahead of him.

“Pinochet has done much which he should take responsibility for – not only for illegally enriching himself, but also for the crimes that he planned and ordered. He has never done it (taken responsibility) and we don’t believe that in his final hour on his deathbed the ex-dictator will do it.

“He has demonstrated that he continues to feel essentially and unfortunately very cowardly,” he said.

But General Pinochet’s lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, said the ex-dictator is being harassed.

“Persecution has been done throughout the world. There has been a process against General Pinochet in France, in Italy, in Spain, in the UK.

“He is a man who has been persecuted by international Marxism throughout his time in office – and in then, after he left the army and the Presidency of the Republic,” he said.

Bail granted

Investigating judge Carlos Cerda first ordered that General Pinochet be placed under house arrest.

But he later granted provisional freedom after General Pinochet paid a 12-million-peso (A$30,994) bond.

Judge Cerda said General Pinochet was not a risk to society.

But an appeals court will give a final ruling on whether General Pinochet should remain free.

Overseas stash

Over the past two weeks, Judge Cerda has questioned General Pinochet three times, on the origin of about 27 million dollars in bank accounts in the United States and a number of tax havens.

The off-shore bank accounts first came to light last year in a US Senate investigation of possible money laundering.

It found that General Pinochet had stashed millions of dollars in a Washington bank, and banks in other countries, under assumed names.

Chile’s courts then investigated General Pinochet’s finances and found more than a hundred bank accounts in several countries under different names.

His wife, Lucia Hiriart, and youngest son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, are out on bail after they were charged as accomplices in tax evasion and using false passports to help move the money among the bank accounts.

It is the first time the retired general has been indicted for charges not related to the massive human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship.

Other investigations

Judge Cerda is also investigating General Pinochet for embezzlement and whether some of the money came from kickbacks from European weapons manufacturers.

Those accusations were not included in the indictment.

And the former dictator is also waiting to see whether he will be charged over the disappearance of 119 left-wing activists who opposed the Pinochet junta.

Another investigating judge, Victor Montiglio, has questioned General Pinochet, over Operation Colombo.

That saw members of the Revolutionary Leftist Movement (MIR) disappeared in July 1975 while in custody.

Their bodies were found later in Argentina and Brazil.

Judge Montiglio organised a joint questioning of General Pinochet and Manuel Contreras, the former head of the DINA secret police.

The two men blamed each other for the activists’ deaths.

During his recent questioning, General Pinochet was quoted in official records as saying: “I regret and suffer for these (human) losses, but God will forgive me if I have committed excesses… which I do not believe.”

About 3,000 people are believed to have been killed during the junta years, but many more were imprisoned and tortured.

It is the fourth time in seven years that General Pinochet, who led a military junta from 1973 to 1990, has been arrested.

He’s never faced trial for rights abuses accusations or his personal dealings.

The Supreme Court withdrew General Pinochet’s immunity from prosecution so he could stand trial for the bank accounts and Operation Colombo.

Doctors have declared that General Pinochet is fit to stand trial.

In previous cases, the court ruled that the former dictator’s his mild dementia, caused by frequent mini-strokes, made him unfit to face trial.

His lawyers immediately announced an appeal, to the recent charges, based on the same health grounds.