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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 13:26 GMT
Taxpayers pick up Pinochet bill
Police cordon
Police operations were reported to cost 50,000-a-week
UK taxpayers face a bill of millions of pounds for the Pinochet case, which occupied some of the country's finest and most expensive legal brains.

The pinochet File
At the end of January, Home Secretary Jack Straw told parliament the 16-month legal tussle had cost taxpayers 1,322,326.83 in legal costs.

But this is thought to be a very conservative figure which could spiral to up to 15m once the costs of security operations are added.

More than 100 lawyers have been caught up in events which have also drawn on the services of 16 top judges.

Last summer, the House of Lords said General Pinochet's costs in several court hearings should be paid from public funds, and that the publicly-funded Crown Prosecution Service pay its own costs.

General Pinochet
Taxpayers will pay the general's legal fees
These included 1m-worth of proceedings abandoned when it was revealed that one Law Lord, Judge Hoffman, had links with human rights charity Amnesty International.

In December 1998, the general's legal expenses were reported to be running at 12,000 a day, with one QC charging 500 an hour.

Further legal costs to the UK taxpayer flowed from Britain's obligation to foot the bill for Spain's legal costs as it tried to extradite the general.

Represented by the Crown Prosecution Service, by the end of last month counsel fees were running to 353,000, other CPS costs - including the price of photocopying - 238,000, and interpreters' fees 4,200.

The home secretary has been forced to spend thousands defending challenges to his decisions - 144,000 by the end of January.

Figures revealed to MPs also show that 5,501.25 was spent on the medical examination undergone by Pinochet last month which led a four-strong team of experts to declare he was unfit to stand trial.

50,000-a-week police

But the costs of General Pinochet's house arrest on the Wentworth Estate in Surrey will have added greatly to the final bill.

A Metropolitan Police operation to guard the general is reported to have cost about 50,000 per week.

Last year the Home Office gave Surrey police an extra 200,000 to help fund security arrangements around the property.

Britain will also feel the cost in terms of revenue lost through soured relations with Chile.

Last year Marconi Marine's Yarrow shipyard on the Clyde said the extradition attempt had meant it lost a 1bn Chilean contract to build two frigates.

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