Banks accused in Pinochet cash row

MAJOR American banks have been accused of helping former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and members of his family build a sprawling secret network of accounts to conceal his wealth.

Citigroup, Bank of America and seven other banks are named in a new report by the US Senate.

The banks allowed Pinochet to use false names, offshore accounts and other deceptions to hide an estimated $13million or more from US examiners and international prosecutors wanting to seize his assets.

Thousands died under Pinochet’s military regime in the 1970s and 1980s.

He is also being investigated in Chile over allegations of both human rights abuses and embezzlement of state funds.

Some banks, including Washington-based Riggs and Citigroup, had a relationship with Pinochet and his family going back 24 or 25 years, the investigators found.

The accounts have since been closed.

Senator Carl Levin said the report illuminated "another chapter in a very tawdry episode in American banking".

The handling of Pinochet’s accounts by Riggs managers came to light last July after an earlier, year-long investigation by the Senate panel.

The new report, based on an additional five-month investigation, says Riggs’ relationship with Pinochet and his family stretched from 1979 to 2004 and included 28 Pinochet-related accounts and certificates of deposit at the bank - rather than the nine previously reported.

Citigroup, the largest US financial institution, opened 63 accounts for Pinochet and 19 for family members as well as making large loans for him and his relatives, according to the report.

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