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The Chilean government’s fraud and corruption investigation of former dictator Augusto Pinochet’s financial dealings in the United States has expanded beyond four Miami banks to include institutions in New York and Washington. After winning a court order from U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard in Miami to gain access to accounts in South Florida, Chile is seeking to force the former Riggs Bank in Washington, now owned by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. of Pittsburgh, and Banco de Chile in New York to turn over client information and make staff available for depositions. Separate but similar applications for access to bank documents filed at federal courts in New York and Washington on July 29 are pending. A U.S. Senate report concluded in March that Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, had more than 100 accounts at U.S. banks in the 1990s. Chile’s attorney, Pedro Martinez-Fraga, said he doesn’t want the banks to be able to conceal documents that might be in Washington or New York, because they may not be covered by the Miami federal judge’s order. “For completeness’ sake, to make sure they follow both the spirit and the letter of the order, we were obliged to file applications in D.C. and New York,” said Martinez-Fraga, a shareholder at the Miami office of Greenberg Traurig. He filed the Miami application and is listed as co-counsel on the others. In Miami, Chilean authorities obtained the authority to investigate Brickell Avenue accounts tied to Pinochet at Riggs; Banco de Chile; the former Coutts & Co., now owned by Banco Santander International; and Florida-chartered Espirito Santo Bank. Chile’s attorney general is investigating how $17 million moved through U.S. accounts it contends are controlled by Pinochet even though the general declared in income tax returns that he earned $661,733 from 1973 through 2004. Through mid-1998, the Chilean government said in its petition that the general and his wife had declared total assets of $853,526. Chilean officials have sought to question bank officials under an 1864 law permitting foreign tribunals involved in a criminal or civil case to obtain information from parties in the United States. Judge Sergio Mu�oz Gajardo, a special minister heading up Chile’s investigation of Pinochet, hopes the New York and Washington bankers will detail how illicitly obtained funds landed in U.S. accounts controlled by Pinochet; his wife, Lucia Hiriart Rodriguez; his attorney Oscar Aitkens; and other confidantes. The Chilean government alleges Pinochet hid money in more than 100 accounts, certificates of deposit and other assets under 10 corporations and 13 aliases, many using his mother’s maiden name Ugarte. The petitions say Chilean officials want to know whether Pinochet opened his U.S. accounts with the help of four fake passports or other false documents. The Chilean government wants $4.3 million in back taxes from Pinochet for his “nondisclosure of income,” according to the petitions filed in New York federal court. Without the bank information, Chilean investigators would “be significantly disadvantaged in their ability to uncover all necessary facts related to the scheme pursuant to which Augusto Pinochet seized his wealth and appropriated assets from the Chilean treasury and thus its citizenry,” according to the application. Executives with Banco de Chile and PNC declined to comment. Lenard granted Chile’s request in Miami in an order dated July 26. There is no deadline, but decisions from the New York and Washington courts are expected soon. “While a federal court is not bound by the ruling of a sister court, we certainly think it will be persuasive in the reasoning undertaken in granting or denying the application,” Martinez-Fraga said. If either request fails, Chilean officials could appeal or seek help from the Justice Department. The process of reviewing bank documents and questioning bankers should take no more than five weeks from the date of an order, Martinez-Fraga said. He is hopeful the process in New York and Washington could be completed in September. Back in Miami, he has already started receiving bank papers, but he declined to discuss specifics about the materials he has received. After investigating specific accounts, Martinez-Fraga said, he may need to question bankers. Some questions are bound to come up, because Lenard did not give Martinez-Fraga everything he wanted. The judge denied a request to question longtime Miami banker Edgar W. Tatman, who from the early 1980s to 1991 administered the alleged Pinochet accounts at Riggs and later Espirito Santo Bank. “It’s not a blow at all,” Martinez-Fraga said. “The order granted 99.9 percent of the request, except for the deposition of one individual.” Pinochet, 89, rose to power in a military coup that overthrew socialist President Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. In July, Pinochet was stripped of immunity from prosecution in a cover-up of more than 100 deaths of political opponents in 1975. More than 3,000 dissidents died during his presidency. Pinochet kept the title commander-in-chief of the Chilean army for eight years after leaving office in 1990. He was then appointed “senator for life” while being pursued both domestically and internationally in corruption and human rights probes.

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