Chilean judge closes Pinochet embezzlement case, family not charged

SANTIAGO Mon Aug 5, 2013 6:08pm EDT

Lucia Hiriart, the widow of Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, waves after a commemorative mass at the military church in Santiago December 10, 2007. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Lucia Hiriart, the widow of Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, waves after a commemorative mass at the military church in Santiago December 10, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A Chilean court decided on Monday not to charge any of late dictator Augusto Pinochet's family members in a long-running investigation into the origin of the general's fortune and his suspected embezzlement of public funds.

The judge did charge six former members of the military who had collaborated with Pinochet in the so-called Riggs case.

Pinochet was charged in 2005 with tax evasion in connection with millions of dollars he held in foreign bank accounts, which came to light after a U.S. Senate investigation into banking irregularities at the now-defunct Washington-based Riggs Bank.

Chilean judge Manuel Antonio Valderrama decided not to charge Pinochet's widow, Lucia Hiriart, and her children. He said the decision can be appealed within 15 days.

Pinochet, who took power in a 1973 military coup, died in 2006 at the age of 91. He did not face a full trial for crimes committed during his 1973-1990 dictatorship, when around 3,000 people were kidnapped and killed and 28,000 were tortured.

An audit by the Universidad de Chile's Business and Economics faculty in 2010 estimated that Pinochet had accumulated $21 million before his death, of which more than $17 million was of unknown origin.

The six former military members charged in the case could face five to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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