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Pinochet had secret accounts in a US bank

Probing Pinochet was not only a criminal but also a corrupted leader; a US Senate report confirmed the former Chilean “law and order” dictator had up to $8 million in a US bank. Now, senators investigate Riggs Bank's operations as it may help Pinochet to evade funds.

A US Senate report released on Wednesday probes that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was not only a criminal leader responsible for the assassination of 3,000 people, but also is tied to a notorious corruption scandal which involves the US based Riggs Bank. According to senators investigating Riggs Bank's operations, senior bank officials from the mid-19th century financial institution failed to act while managers helped Pinochet conceal his wealth, move funds and evade efforts under court order to seize his assets.

The 119-page report by the US Senate Subcommittee on Investigations reads that Pinochet opened at least six accounts and several certificates of deposit at the Washington-based Riggs Bank while he was under house arrest in London and his assets were subject to court proceedings. Also, a new report by the Senate Governmental Affairs investigative subcommittee says that Ashley Lee, executive vice president and chief risk officer at Riggs, instructed agency staff who had looked into the Pinochet accounts not to put their examination memos or supporting paperwork into the agency's electronic files, as a way to cover up these operations. Lee denied having done so at the hearing, saying "I made no (such) instructions to anybody."

However, the report is conclusive: “Managers at the old-line Washington bank, working with Pinochet from 1994 to 2002, set up phoney offshore companies and hid the existence of his accounts from U.S. examiners”, according to the yearlong investigation by the panel's Republican and Democratic staffs.

It also reads that Riggs employees dealing with the Pinochet accounts during 1994-2002, while international prosecutors were seeking an accounting and freeze of his assets:

“Helped Pinochet set up phoney offshore companies.

“Opened accounts in their names and otherwise altered names on the accounts to conceal his control of them.

“Transferred $1.6 million of his funds from London to the United States. Pinochet, who was president of Chile from 1973 until 1990, was under house arrest in Britain during part of the period in question. Chile's Supreme Court in 2002 declared him unfit to stand trial on grounds of health problems and his mental condition.

“Conducted transactions through Riggs' own accounts to hide Pinochet's involvement in some cash transactions.

“Hid the existence of his accounts from comptroller's office examiners for two years and initially resisted the regulators' requests for information.”

Now “law and order” Gen. Pinochet, who had taken power by overthrowing former socialist constitutional leader Salvador Allende in a bloody coup plotted by the CIA, will have to explain how he managed to stock up $8million in secret bank accounts outside Chile. Perhaps, he will argue that he is still insane to attend to a court hearing, as he did in the past when accused of responsibility of tortures and assassinations during his rule.