Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pinochet stashed money in Spain and Gibraltar

US Senate Report - Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and his family stashed at least $15 million in more than 125 hidden accounts at banks, including Citigroup Inc., many of which date back 25 years, a U.S. Senate report said.

Pinochet, 89, whose regime killed and tortured thousands of Chileans, used the web of accounts to move funds from offshore holding companies to personal accounts in the U.S. and to transfer cash to Chile, said the staff report of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Senate investigators said the former dictator’s use of banks with U.S. operations was far more extensive than previously disclosed. In addition to 63 accounts at Citigroup and 28 at Washington-based Riggs Bank, Pinochet and his family had accounts at foreign banks with U.S. operations, including Banco de Chile and Espirito Santo Bank of Miami, a unit of Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo, the report said.

The Senate report found that Citigroup helped the Pinochet family set up two offshore holding companies and provided family members with lines of credit in foreign countries such as Argentina, the Bahamas, Switzerland, Chile and the U.K. New York- based Citigroup has ended those non-U.S. dealings with the Pinochet family, the subcommittee said.

The Senate report also said foreign affiliates of Banco Atlantico, now owned by Spain’s Banco Sabadell SA, transferred money from Switzerland, Gibraltar and Spain to Pinochet’s U.S. accounts.

The Pinochet family also had accounts at Coutts & Co. (USA) International of Miami that were set up by family lawyer Oscar Aitken, the report said. Once part of the international private banking unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, the Coutts unit was sold to Banco Santander Central Hispano SA in 2003.

“We have strict anti-money laundering controls and procedures and cooperate with the relevant national authorities," said Santander spokesman Peter Greiff.

The subcommittee found a total of 28 accounts that Pinochet, his relatives and Chilean military officers kept at Riggs Bank over a 25-year period from 1979 to 2002.

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