January 28, 2006

Pinochet’s daughter returns to face charges in Chile

By Kevin Gray

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - The elder daughter of
former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was returning home to
Chile on Saturday, nearly a week after she fled her country on
tax charges and sought political asylum in the United States.

Lucia Pinochet Hiriart boarded a flight bound for Santiago
following a stopover in Buenos Aires in route from Washington,
Chilean officials in the Argentine capital said.

She had fled Chile for neighboring Argentina by car on
January 22, a day before her mother and four siblings were
arrested on charges of tax evasion and fraud.

Shortly after Lucia Pinochet Hiriart withdrew her request
for political asylum in the United States on Friday, U.S.
officials ordered her to return to Argentina -- the last
country she was in before she arrived in Washington on
Wednesday saying she intended to seek asylum.

U.S. officials did not say why she withdrew her asylum

A Chilean judge has indicted Pinochet Hiriart with tax
fraud in connection with an investigation into multimillion
bank accounts secretly held by the Pinochet family outside of
Chile for years.

Dozens of Chilean officials, including Chile's ambassador
in Buenos Aires, greeted her after she arrived at the airport.
After a brief stopover, she changed planes to head home.

Pinochet Hiriart, 60, has been charged in Chile with tax
fraud related to about $1 million in undeclared taxes and
falsification of documents in a widening tax evasion and fraud
investigation involving the Pinochet family.

The accounts came to light after a U.S. Senate
investigation of banking irregularities at the now-defunct
Riggs Bank, based in Washington.

Augusto Pinochet, 90, took power in Chile in a 1973
military coup that toppled elected socialist President Salvador
Allende. Pinochet has been blamed for the deaths of as many as
3,000 Chileans and torture of tens of thousands during his
17-year rule.

He was charged last year with evading taxes on an estimated
$27 million hidden in foreign accounts and also faces charges
on human rights abuses in dozens of cases. Prosecutors say
Pinochet and his family stashed millions of dollars in more
than 100 bank accounts outside of Chile.

Observers say Pinochet may end up facing prosecution for
tax crimes before any of the human rights charges against him,
since those charges are stalled in the courts because of his