[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 23:41 GMT 00:41 UK
Pinochet family arrested in Chile
General Augusto Pinochet, his wife Lucia and their five children (file photo)
US bank accounts were found in the name of Pinochet and his relatives
The widow and five children of Chile's former military ruler, Gen Augusto Pinochet, have been arrested on charges of embezzlement.

They are accused of illegally transferring $27m (13.2m) to foreign bank accounts during the general's time in power between 1973 and 1990.

A judge ordered 17 other suspects to be held, including aides to Gen Pinochet.

Gen Pinochet died in December 2006 before he could stand trial on charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

More than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" during his military rule.

Pablo Rodriguez, the Pinochet family lawyer, said he was "astonished" by the decision, which he called "illegal and abusive".

He expressed confidence the ruling would be reversed on appeal.

Aides implicated

Gen Pinochet's 84-year-old widow, Lucia Hiriart, was taken to hospital with high blood pressure following her arrest.

However, Judge Carlos Cerda said there were "solid indications" the accused had "participated in the misuse of fiscal funds".

No-one in Chile is above the law
Michelle Bachelet
Chilean president

Judge Cerda is investigating a case in which Gen Pinochet allegedly hid funds with the help of Washington-based Riggs bank.

Suspects include Gen Pinochet's former personal secretary, Monica Ananias, and his lawyer Gustavo Collao.

At least three retired army generals - Jorge Ballerino, Guillermo Garin and Hector Letelier - were also charged.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she would await the court's decision "with calm".

"No-one in Chile is above the law," she said.

RIGGS CASE
2004 US probe into Riggs bank found Gen Pinochet held up to $8m in secret accounts there
Accounts alleged to have been opened in names of his widow, children and associates
Further investigations found former ruler held some $27m in foreign accounts
Gen Pinochet charged with tax evasion and using false passports to open accounts abroad
His lawyers say fortune gained legally through savings, donations and accrued interest

In 2004 a US Senate investigation found hundreds of bank accounts in the name of Pinochet and his relatives at the bank. He was being investigated for tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement in relation to those funds.

His immunity from prosecution was stripped in 2000, sparking years of legal wrangling to try to bring him to trial for alleged human rights abuses and tax fraud.

His lawyers said he was unable to defend himself for health reasons.

In 2006, Gen Pinochet died of a heart attack aged 91 while under house arrest.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Chilean president will await the outcome with calm



SEE ALSO
Pinochet legacy still in dispute
11 Dec 06 |  Americas
Chile MPs urge Pinochet monument
19 Dec 06 |  Americas
Tributes paid at Pinochet funeral
12 Dec 06 |  Americas
Chile's Gen Pinochet dies at 91
11 Dec 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
21 Jun 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Chile
20 Jun 07 |  Country profiles



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific