The Chilean government might investigate possible secret bank accounts belonging to ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, President Ricardo Lagos said Thursday, reacting to a U.S. Senate report that said Riggs Bank had helped Pinochet hide his assets.
The report by Senate investigators said that Washington-based Riggs sought business from Pinochet and set up multiple accounts and two offshore shell companies to hide millions of dollars, violating U.S. safeguards against money laundering. Pinochet's family and advisers denied the report.
If the Senate investigation establishes the existence of the money in such accounts, "there would probably be some sort of commission set up by different government bodies in Chile to investigate," Lagos said at a news conference.
"It would be unlikely that the issue would go unnoticed in Chile, whether it be a parliamentary commission or some other body," he added.
Pinochet led a 1973 military coup in Chile followed by a repressive 17-year reign during which at least 3,000 people were killed or disappeared, and tens of thousands were tortured, according to government figures.
Pinochet, 88, was arrested in London in 1998 at the request of a Spanish court on charges of crimes against humanity, but was released because of poor health.
He and his security agents face charges on hundreds of counts of homicide, kidnapping and torture in Chile but none of corruption, despite Pinochet's ownership of a mansion in Santiago and at least four other properties in the country.
"Pinochet's money has always been a mystery for Chileans," said Nelson Caucoto, a human rights lawyer. "He accumulated wealth practically overnight that doesn't fit with his official salary as a public servant."
There have been several failed attempts to probe his finances by journalists or lawmakers since the 1980s.
Pinochet's aide and close friend Guillermo Garin, a retired army general, said neither Pinochet nor his family had secret accounts abroad.
Pinochet's son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, told the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio that Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon had searched for Pinochet accounts in the Bahamas in 1999, but found nothing.