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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 18:02 GMT
Asset freeze as Pinochet turns 89
Gen Pinochet in 2000
Pinochet's legal team say all his funds are legitimate
Chile's former military ruler, Gen Augusto Pinochet, is marking his 89th birthday amid news that more of his assets have been frozen by a judge.

Judicial sources say assets worth more than $4m, mainly property, were frozen by Judge Sergio Munoz last week.

Gen Pinochet is being sued by Chile's authorities for tax fraud and faces a money-laundering inquiry.

He is also under investigation over his alleged role in human rights violations while in power.

In particular, he faces possible charges in connection with Operation Condor - a conspiracy by six South American regimes in the 1970s to hunt down and kill their left-wing opponents.

Tax evasion

Judge Munoz is investigating the source of at least $8m that Gen Pinochet has been holding in secret bank accounts in the US - some of it under false names.

The money in those accounts, uncovered in July by a US Senate investigation into the Washington DC-based Riggs Bank, has already been frozen and repatriated to Chile, where it is being held pending the outcome of Judge Munoz's inquiries.

Gen Augusto Pinochet of Chile

The latest order, covering assets including property in Santiago and other cities, was issued in order to guarantee payments that the general may be ordered to make if found guilty of tax evasion.

The order was apparently issued last Friday, but the news did not emerge until the eve of Gen Pinochet's birthday.

The BBC's Clinton Porteous in Santiago says the revelation has come as a nasty birthday surprise for the general, who has already had a miserable year as a result of the investigations into his past.

'Figure of fun'

In recent days, reports of more bank accounts held by Gen Pinochet in Miami have surfaced, some under false names.

Our correspondent says the pseudonyms used have given rise to many jokes - and that the once-feared leader is becoming a figure of fun.

Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, commenting on the controversy, said: "The only reason for using false names was to hide the accounts because the money was not justly obtained, so to speak."

However, Gen Pinochet's lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, denied all such allegations, saying that the general "has not stolen a single peso from anyone".

At the same time, Gen Pinochet faces further developments in the Operation Condor investigation, conducted by another judge, Juan Guzman.

Judge Guzman is not due to decide whether to charge the general until next week at the earliest. He intends to hold further meetings with court-appointed doctors who diagnosed Gen Pinochet as having "moderate dementia".

The former military ruler has denied links to the Operation Condor killings, saying he thought the operation was handled by middle-ranking officers.

Daughter rues Pinochet-era abuses
12 Nov 04 |  Americas
Chile's torture report finalised
10 Nov 04 |  Americas
Dementia diagnosis for Pinochet
15 Oct 04 |  Americas
Pinochet faces tax evasion charge
01 Oct 04 |  Americas
Pinochet quizzed on bank accounts
21 Aug 04 |  Americas
Judge to probe Pinochet finances
21 Jul 04 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
27 Aug 04 |  Country profiles

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