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Pinochet's Victims Go After His Lawyer

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo September 7, 2004 Chilean Dictatorship s Victims Go After Pinochet s Lawyer by
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2004
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      September 7, 2004
      Chilean Dictatorship's Victims Go After Pinochet's Lawyer
      by Alicia Fraerman

      MADRID -- Representatives of more than 5,000 survivors of
      the Chilean dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and the
      families of victims brought a lawsuit Monday against the
      former dictator's executor, Oscar Aitken, in the Spanish

      The legal action was filed in the court of Spanish Judge
      Baltasar Garzón, and urges him to investigate the elderly
      former dictator's lawyer on charges of money laundering and
      fraudulent bankruptcy.

      The lawsuit, brought by Spanish lawyers Joan Garcés and
      Manuel Murillo on behalf of survivors of Chile's 1973-1990
      de facto military regime and the relatives of victims, will
      be incorporated in the legal proceedings opened against
      Pinochet by Garzón in February 1996 in Spain.

      In October 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London, where he
      had undergone surgery for a slipped disc, on a warrant
      issued by Garzón, who was seeking his extradition to try him
      for crimes against humanity, like the forced disappearance
      of thousands of people, including a number of Spanish
      citizens, under his regime.

      Although Pinochet spent 16 months under house arrest in
      London, he was eventually released by the British government
      on humanitarian grounds.

      Garcés, who served as personal adviser to Chilean President
      Salvador Allende -- overthrown by Pinochet on Sept. 11, 1973
      -- told IPS he was confident that the case would prosper and
      that it would help compensate, "at least in part, in
      monetary terms," the torture survivors and families of victims.

      In October 1998, Garzón issued an order to freeze Pinochet's
      assets, anywhere in the world, as a guarantee that victims
      would receive compensation if the retired army chief were
      ever convicted in court.

      Today, Garcés and Murillo are also demanding a freeze on the
      assets of Pinochet's executor, Aitken.

      The lawyers for the plaintiffs point to Aitken's
      "acknowledged participation in the creation of Abanda
      Limited in 1999 on Tortola Island in the British Virgin
      Islands, to evade the [1998] freeze on Pinochet's assets."

      They are also seeking a freeze on the assets of Joseph L.
      Allbritton, Robert L. Allbritton, Steven Pfeiffer and Carol
      Thompson -- senior executives of the Washington-based Riggs

      The expansion of the lawsuit presented Monday in Madrid is
      based on the report "Money Laundering and Foreign
      Corruption: Enforcement and Effectiveness of the PATRIOT
      Act, a Case Study Involving Riggs Bank".

      The report, prepared by the minority staff of the U.S.
      Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs' Permanent
      Subcommittee on Investigations, was released on July 15.

      The investigation "revealed transactions aimed at evading
      the freeze on Augusto Pinochet's assets ordered by the
      Spanish court in any country where they are located, whether
      under his name or the names of third parties," said Garcés.

      The brief lodged by Garcés and Murillo states that the
      alleged crimes involving Pinochet's assets, including money
      laundering, were committed in Spain, Britain, the United
      States, the Bahamas and Chile.

      They also list bank accounts opened in affiliates of Riggs
      Banks in several cities around the world, as well as
      transfers of funds between those accounts, that took place
      on various occasions.

      One of the accounts, opened in London on an unspecified
      date, became personal account number 74-041-013 in April
      1997 and was closed in May 2000, containing a total of $1.1

      Those funds were transferred to Riggs Bank in the United
      States under the name of an offshore shell corporation
      belonging to Pinochet, Althorp Investment Co., Ltd.

      The U.S. Senate report states that "Riggs Bank assisted
      Augusto Pinochet . . . to evade legal proceedings related to
      his Riggs bank accounts and resisted OCC [Office of the
      Comptroller of the Currency] oversight of these accounts,
      despite red flags involving the source of Mr. Pinochet's
      wealth, pending legal proceedings to freeze his assets, and
      public allegations of serious wrongdoing by this client."

      Garcés pointed out that the "legal proceedings" cited by the
      report referred to the freeze on Pinochet's assets ordered
      by Garzón, of which the U.S. courts were immediately
      informed, and which remains in force.

      The U.S. Senate investigation also mentions a visit to
      Chile, paid for by Riggs Bank, by the private banker who
      handled relations with Pinochet. He personally traveled to
      Chile to hand over cashier checks worth $50,000 each – for a
      total of $400,000 -- to the retired general.

      These checks, and others that were sent by overnight
      delivery to Chile, were made payable to Maria Hiriart (the
      former dictator's wife) and/or Augusto P. Ugarte (Ugarte is
      Pinochet's second last name).

      The checks, which totaled $1.9 million, were cashed one by
      one, over the space of a few months.

      The report also states, "When asked why Riggs didn't simply
      wire transfer the funds to a Pinochet account in Chile,
      which would have been faster, less expensive, and more
      secure than physically transporting checks to Chile, Riggs
      personnel were unable to provide a satisfactory explanation."

      Sources in Garzón's courtroom said admission of the
      expansion of the lawsuit is pending acceptance by the
      prosecutor, which Garcés said was virtually a sure thing.

      The lawyer added that the money found in Pinochet's accounts
      in Riggs Bank, estimated by the Senate report at between
      four and eight million dollars, could be "just the tip of
      the iceberg."

      (Inter Press Service)

      Dan Clore

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