Family of Chile's former leader Augusto Pinochet arrested on embezzlement charges

Friday, October 5, 2007

Augusto Pinochet, photographed in 1995.

The widow and five children of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet have been arrested in Chile on embezzlement charges. They are accused of illegally transferring USD27 million to foreign bank accounts during Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990. Seventeen of Pinochet's former associates, including his former personal secretary and three retired army generals, were also arrested.

Pinochet had been charged with tax evasion, fraud, and embezzlement following a 2004 U.S. Senate investigation. In December 2006, he died without having been brought to trial. However, Chilean Judge Carlos Cerda said there were "solid indications" that Pinochet's family and associates had also "participated in the misuse of fiscal funds".

Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch called the decision "an extremely important development for Chile's democracy and the rule of law. Going after the relatives of the powerful and the fortunes they amassed used to be considered off limits," he said.

Pinochet family lawyer Pablo Rodriguez said he was "astonished by this illegal and abusive decision by the judge", and that he was "sure that it will be reversed by the Court of Appeals."