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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 21:27 GMT
Pinochet 'secret' accounts sought
Gen Augusto Pinochet
Gen Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 until 1990
A Chilean judge is to launch an international search for secret bank accounts belonging to former military ruler General Augusto Pinochet.

Judge Sergio Munoz said he wanted to know how $8m (4.2m) had reached secret bank accounts in Gen Pinochet's name, in the US capital, Washington.

He said he would be asking banks in several countries for their help.

Lawyers for Gen Pinochet, who faces human rights abuse charges, insist the money comes from bona fide sources.

Misuse of public funds

Judge Munoz was granted permission to begin the search by Chile's supreme court.

He has said in court filings that he estimates Gen Pinochet's fortune was up to $15m (8m).

He is also looking into accusations of misuse of public funds and tax evasion by the general.

Gen Pinochet's legal team has said his wealth is all from legitimate origins and that he built it up from savvy investing.

It is understood that Judge Munoz intends to ask courts in Oklahoma, Washington, New York, Miami, Madrid, Zurich, London, Gibraltar, the Bahamas, Luxembourg and Panama for information on possible Gen Pinochet accounts, according to an unnamed court source quoted by Reuters,

Chile's internal tax service has filed a separate tax fraud complaint against Gen Pinochet.

Gen Pinochet faces charges relating to the murder of one Chilean and the disappearance of nine others during his 1973-90 period in power.

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