August 18, 2006

Chile court strips Pinochet immunity in fraud case

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chile's Supreme Court stripped
former dictator Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution
on Friday to face charges in a $27 million tax fraud case,
court sources said.

Pinochet, 90, has avoided being processed in a handful of
human rights cases because of his health problems, which
include mild dementia caused by frequent mini-strokes.

The ruling opens Pinochet to investigation and prosecution
for embezzling millions of dollars in public funds said to have
been deposited in secret bank accounts outside of Chile.

Chilean courts must decide on a charge-by-charge basis
whether to strip Pinochet of his immunity -- a privilege of
former presidents.

In October, Pinochet was stripped of immunity to face other
charges in the tax fraud case, including tax evasion,
falsification of documents and false declarations of

The secret Pinochet accounts have had repercussions for
international banks.

Riggs Bank, based in Washington, pleaded guilty to a
criminal violation of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, an
anti-money-laundering law, and agreed to pay $16 million for
failing to report suspicious activity in Pinochet's accounts.
Riggs was subsequently acquired by another bank.

And the New York and Miami branches of Banco de Chile,
Chile's No. 2 bank, were fined $3 million for inadequate
anti-money-laundering programs.