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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 22:14 GMT
Pinochet faces tax fraud charges
Augusto Pinochet
Previous efforts to try Gen Pinochet on human right charges failed
Former Chilean military ruler Gen Augusto Pinochet has been placed under house arrest and charged with tax evasion and passport fraud.

He is also accused of using forged government documents and misleading officials over his assets.

The charges relate to $27m (15.6m) allegedly hidden in secret overseas bank accounts under false names.

Gen Pinochet, 89, faced charges in two human rights cases in recent years, but both collapsed due to his ill health.

His lawyer he would appeal on similar grounds, insisting Gen Pinochet was too weak to stand trial despite being deemed fit by a court.

It's sad to see a person who dedicated his entire life to his country facing this situation
Guillermo Garin
Gen Pinochet's spokesman

He has already settled most of the unpaid taxes, Pablo Rodriguez added.

His spokesman, Guillermo Garin, described Gen Pinochet's condition as "very serious".

"It's sad to see a person who dedicated his entire life to his country facing this situation," he said.

Gen Pinochet was told of the fresh charges while at his home in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

Judge Carlos Cerda ordered his detention after investigations into alleged secret funds in Riggs Bank in the US and in other accounts abroad.

Bail was set at $23,000 (13,400).

US tip-off

The judge decided to bring charges after questioning Gen Pinochet several times earlier this month.

According to Judge Cerda's indictment, Gen Pinochet evaded $2.4m (1.4m) in taxes between 1980 and 2004.

He is also accused of using a selection of forged passports and documents to help open more than a hundred bank accounts.

The bank accounts were first revealed by a US Senate investigation last year. More were discovered during probes by Chilean authorities.

Discovery of the cash prompted fresh investigations into whether Gen Pinochet made money out of illegal arms sales - a separate issue not included in the charges.

No immunity

Last week prosecutors declared him fit to stand trial after examinations by psychiatrists.

In October he lost his state immunity against the fraud charges.

A month earlier he was stripped of protection in relation to more alleged human rights abuses.

In Chile, immunity can be lifted only on a case-by-case basis.

Gen Pinochet, who will be 90 on Friday, may now also face prosecution by some of the families of 119 dissidents allegedly killed, or "disappeared" under his regime.

More than 3,000 people died in political violence during his 1973-1990 regime, an official inquiry has concluded.


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