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6 U.S. Banks Held Pinochet's Accounts

Senate Report Details 'Secret Web'

By Terence O'Hara
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2005; Page E03

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had more than 125 accounts at a half-dozen U.S. banks, including Citibank, during the 1990s, according to a Senate report.

Pinochet, whose 17-year military rule of Chile was marked by the murder and torture of political opponents in Chile and elsewhere, maintained "a secret web of accounts" at U.S. banks and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign banks, said the report, to be released today by the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations. Using fake names and often-suspect and secret money transfers, Pinochet moved millions of dollars through the U.S. banking system without attracting the notice of bank officials or regulators, it said.

Augusto Pinochet and associates, including his son, Marco Antonio, rear, set up many accounts in U.S. banks, according to a Senate report. (Martin Thomas -- AP)

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Riggs National Corp.
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Special Report: Riggs Bank

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Pinochet and the Law

The report builds on an investigation made public in July that identified Riggs Bank as Pinochet's primary bank in the United States. Riggs pleaded guilty in January for failing to prevent possible money laundering by Pinochet and the West African nation of Equatorial Guinea.

The subcommittee will also release details about the extent of the Riggs-Pinochet relationship, including that senior officials, including Riggs's former chairman and largest shareholder, Joe L. Allbritton, were more deeply involved in courting Pinochet than was previously known.

"Riggs was in a class by itself," said Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, whose staff conducted the investigation and made its report available to reporters yesterday. "But more than just Riggs Bank was engaged in giving aid and comfort to Augusto Pinochet," he said.

"Riggs provided [the subcommittee] with all the material it knew existed at the time," bank spokesman Mark N. Hendrix said. "Riggs investigative professionals took this issue seriously and through extensive field work found extensive information not previously known to exist."

The report said Pinochet -- and, specifically, his son Marco Antonio and his business adviser Oscar Aitken -- were able to open so many accounts, and transfer funds between them so often, that the money attracted "little or no notice from U.S. regulators or law enforcement," the report said.

Such was the case at Citibank, which first opened an account for Pinochet in 1981. The subcommittee identified 63 U.S. accounts for Pinochet and his family at Citibank branches in New York and Miami. The report said Citibank offered many of the same services to Pinochet's family that Riggs did: creating offshore companies, international wire transfers, investment advice, and loans.

But, in contrast to Riggs, Citibank said it began closing the accounts in 1995, when a bank employee in Miami found out that Pinochet had created the accounts under an alias, using obviously false identification: a passport for "Jose Ramone Ugarte" with a clumsily disguised picture of Pinochet.

"Citibank accounts for Augusto Pinochet, which he opened with false documentation using pseudonyms, were shut down nearly a decade ago," Citibank said in a written statement released last night. "All accounts for Pinochet family members are now closed, but for one that we have been required to keep frozen pending liquidating instructions from the client, a Pinochet daughter."

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