Thursday, August 26, 2004

Monsters Need Bankers Too 

And when they do, there's one family they know they can trust. From the Washington Post:
Chile's Supreme Court yesterday stripped former dictator Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution, paving the way for possible trials of the 88-year-old general on charges of human rights abuses during his 17-year rule.

The court's 9 to 8 decision, leaving Pinochet open to prosecution for his role in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of 19 political dissidents, upheld a lower court decision earlier this year that lifted his immunity as a former head of state. On previous occasions, the Chilean court had refused to revisit the immunity issue because Pinochet had been found mentally unfit to stand trial.

In a hearing Wednesday prosecutors argued that he was competent, citing evidence including recent disclosures that Pinochet secretly held and managed millions of dollars at Riggs Bank in Washington while he was under house arrest in London pleading that he was too sick to be extradited to Spain to stand trial for crimes against humanity . . . .

Pinochet's legal problems have been growing in recent months. Last month Chilean investigators opened a probe into the source of the millions of dollars in Pinochet's accounts abroad following the release of a Senate report on possible money-laundering violations at the Riggs. The violations included evidence Pinochet actively managed as much as $8 million at Riggs from 1996 to 2002 to hide assets from international prosecutors seeking restitution for the families of his alleged crimes.
Last month, the Post reported that President Bush had promised "a full investigation" into claims that Riggs Bank helped Pinochet conceal all those millions. Oddly, the Post neglected to report that the President's uncle, Jonathan Bush, is a chief executive at Riggs. In May of this year, federal regulators fined Riggs National Corp. $25 million dollars -- "the largest penalty ever assessed against a domestic bank in connection with money laundering. The fine stems from Riggs's failure over at least the last two years to actively monitor suspect financial transfers through Saudi Arabian accounts held by the bank."

The Post did, however, see fit to mention that the wife of Saudi Ambassador and longtime Bush crony Prince Bandar bin Sultan "may have used a Riggs account to donate money to a charity that then gave some of it to the Sept. 11 terrorists." Lawyers representing the families of 9/11 victims have subpoenaed Riggs for information about how the company handled Saudi Arabian bank accounts.

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