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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
HSBC probes Pinochet gold claims
Augusto Pinochet accompanied by a bodyguard in a photo from July 2006
Gen Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990
HSBC say they are investigating Chilean reports of a multimillion gold deposit allegedly belonging to Augusto Pinochet and held in a Hong Kong bank account.

Two newspapers allege that gold bars belonging to the former military leader worth $160m (85.5m) have been found.

HSBC says that, although initial checks show it does not hold the gold, it is awaiting information from the Chilean authorities to pursue the inquiry.

Gen Pinochet, 90, is being investigated for tax evasion and embezzlement.

"We've had no formal approach either from the Chilean government or the authorities in Hong Kong but, in light of the current media reports, we have started an investigation," HSBC spokesman Richard Lindsay told the BBC news website.

"However, at present, we do not believe we hold gold or any other funds for Gen Pinochet, in Hong Kong or elsewhere."

'Not yet official'

Chile's government says it has been informed of the reports but has not received any official notification.

The two newspapers, El Mercurio and La Nacion, quote unnamed officials linked with the financial investigation as their source for the reports.

Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley says the authorities in Santiago received information several days ago which was relayed to the courts which are investigating Gen Pinochet's financial affairs abroad.

But Mr Foxley said the information was not yet official.

A spokesman for Gen Pinochet said he had no information about the alleged deposit but had no doubt that the reports had no real basis.

The Chilean courts have stripped Gen Pinochet of the legal immunity he enjoyed as a former president in several cases, including for alleged human rights abuses, but he has yet to face trial.

Pinochet's lawyers deny the claims

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