World

Pinochet's widow, sons and daughters face corruption charges

A Chilean judge has ordered the arrest of the widow of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet and his five children on charges relating to millions of dollars he allegedly spirited out of the country.

Late Chilean dictator was accused of stashing millions in foreign accounts

A Chilean judge has ordered the arrest of the widow of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet and his two sons andthree daughtersoncharges relating to millions of dollarsheallegedly spirited out of the country during his 1973-1990 rule.

Seventeenof his former associates, including military officers close to him in his yearsas Chile's political and military commander, were also ordered held.

Pinochet, an armygeneral, seized power from an elected government and presided over an era in which thousands of dissidents were killed or disappeared.

Within hours of Judge Carlos Cerda's decision, all five Pinochet children had turned themselves in to authorities, the English-language Santiago Times news website reported.

Meanwhile, his widow, Lucia Hiriart, was taken from her mansion to Santiago's Military Hospital after a sudden rise in blood pressure,it said.

It is first time the dead general's inner circle has been rounded up on corruption charges, the New York Times reported, adding that the civiliansinvolved include his former accountant, lawyer and personal secretary.

Pinochet died last year at 91 while under indictment on human rights and corruption charges.

His reputation for probity faded in 2004after a U.S. Senate reportsaid he hidmillions of dollars in secret accounts in a bank in Washington. Chilean officials eventually accused him of stashing as much as $27 million US in accounts under false names in many parts of the world.

In 2006, members of the Pinochetfamily faced charges involving tax evasion and the use of false passports, but most of them were dropped.

A family lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, said the latest arrests and detentions would be appealed, the Associated Press reported.

"I am astonished by this illegal and abusive decision by the judge, and I am sure that it will be reversed by the Court of Appeals,"the lawyersaid.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she would wait for the court'sdecision "with calm. No one in Chile is above the law."

With files from the Associated Press

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