Pinochet's Victims Go After His Lawyer
- 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
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  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
(Inter Press Service)
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