Chile to Unseal Pinochet's Will to Look for Possible Stolen Funds

Chile will unseal the last will and testament of former dictator Augusto Pinochet on Wednesday, a key step in determining the true size of the fortune he allegedly amassed by diverting public funds for decades.

The will, which was apparently prepared shortly before his death in 2006 at age 91, has remained under seal since then, and the Pinochet family wanted it to stay that way. The opening was requested by the Defense Council of the State, which is seeking to recover funds from Pinochet's estate.

His oldest daughter, Lucia Pinochet, said the order to open the document amounts to "political persecution" in an interview with the newspaper La Segunda. She accused Chile's leaders of lacking the moral courage to call off the investigation into allegations that he stole from the state.

Pinochet, who ruled Chile in 1973-90 and then spent years as a "senator for life," died under house arrest, without having had to face trial on charges of illegal enrichment and human rights violations.

An academic study ordered by Chile's Supreme Court determined years ago that the dictator had accumulated $21 million before he died and that only $3 million of it was justified by his military salary.

Chile's justice system is obligated to keep the dictator's last wishes private, a court spokesman told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name. But a government representative will attend the private opening, looking to recover any state money the will might point to, so at least some of its contents might become public later.

Also present at the opening will be those members of Pinochet's nuclear family who want to attend and a lawyer for the family.

The late dictator's known wealth, including real estate, cars and several million dollars in bank accounts, remains embargoed. Although his family has always said the wealth came from his honest work leading Chile, the study by Universidad de Chile said that $17.86 million was unjustified by his military salary and that its origins were unknown. In the years since his death, much of those millions have not been found.

Even many supporters of Pinochet turned against him after allegations about his hidden wealth were revealed in 2004 by a U.S Senate committee investigating money laundering by the Riggs Bank of Washington. Pinochet accounts were later discovered in Europe and the Caribbean.

Pinochet said in 2005 that his wealth came from "lifetime savings" after a judge investigating the Riggs case ordered the arrest on tax fraud charges of his wife, Lucia Hiriart, and his youngest son, Marco Antonio.

Pinochet's known wealth includes a weekend country house in El Melocoton (The Peach), luxury apartments in the exclusive coastal town of Renaca and the nearby port of Valparaiso, his home in a wealthy neighborhood of Santiago, several cars, $2.6 million deposited in a local bank and $280,000 saved at BankBoston.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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