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Passports used by Augusto Pinochet to open secret bank accounts.
[Obtained by U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations


National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 149

For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh - 202/994-7116

March 15 , 2005

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Washington, D.C., March 15, 2005 - Washington D.C.: The National Security Archive tonight posted key documents released on March 15 by the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs showing conclusively that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had used multiple aliases and false identification to maintain over 125 secret bank accounts at the Riggs National Bank and eight other financial institutions in the United States. In a review of banking records, Senate investigators found ten false names used by Pinochet to disguise his accounts, among them Daniel Lopez, A.P. Ugarte and Jose Pinochet. Records obtained from the Riggs Bank and Citibank showed that Pinochet presented falsified passports under the names of Augusto Ugarte and Jose Ramon Ugarte for account identification.

In their investigation into money laundering, foreign corruption and inadequate enforcement of banking rules to fight terrorism, the staff of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) has obtained thousands of internal banking records, among them confidential memoranda, emails, accounting reports, and even private letters from Riggs officials to General Pinochet. Many of these documents are cited in their "Staff Report on U.S. accounts used by Augusto Pinochet" released today (the Archive posted the executive summary; click here to read the full report). Under the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Archive has requested the declassification of these documents from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). But the OCC, which is implicated in the Pinochet financial scandal for its failure to monitor his illicit transactions at Riggs, has refused to release any of the documentation, even though the Senate Subcommittee has already published hundreds of pages of banking records related to Pinochet's accounts.

The new evidence promises to further erode Gen. Pinochet's legal and political standing in Chile where the former dictator faces charges of corruption and tax evasion, as well as homicide and terrorism. "This is the final nail in the coffin of Pinochet's legacy," said Peter Kornbluh, the Archive's Chile specialist who hailed the work of Senate investigators in uncovering dramatic documentation of financial wrongdoing. "Not since the IT&T papers were revealed in 1972 has there been a corporate scandal of this magnitude relating to Chile," he said.

In an opinion column written for a Chilean newspaper, Kornbluh highlighted one of the more colorful aspects of the documents quoted in the Senate report today: the letters sent by Riggs executives to Pinochet and other members of the Chilean military after numerous high level trips to Chile. Internal Riggs records, according to the report, show that "Riggs senior officials began visiting Chile as early as 1986 and met with Chilean military and government leaders on at least 7 occasions in 1986, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2002. On at least five of these trips, Riggs senior officials met with Mr. Pinochet in Chile, participated with him in social as well as business events, corresponded with him from Washington, and presented him with gifts on behalf of Riggs Bank."

Among the letters obtained from the Riggs bank files were thank you notes from chairman Joseph Allbritton and his wife, Barbara, and a birthday greeting in November 1997 from Riggs President Timothy Coughlin when Pinochet turned 82. "Please accept our best wishes for every success in your continuing service to Chile in 1998 and many happy returns to the date of your birth in the years to come," Coughlin wrote. As Kornbluh points out in his article, Pinochet spent his 83rd birthday under house arrest in London and, since then, has faced prosecution for human rights crimes and now financial corruption.



Peter Kornbluh

On General Augusto Pinochet's 82nd birthday, he received a note from the President of the Riggs National Bank in Washington, "Tim" Coughlin. "On the occasion of your birthday today," it read, "all of your friends and supporters at Riggs Bank send you our appreciation and congratulations for all you have done for Chile. Please accept our best wishes for every success in your continuing service to Chile in 1998 and many happy returns to the date of your birth in the years to come." Of course, Pinochet has not had any "happy returns" since then; on his next birthday he found himself under house arrest in London facing extradition to Spain and his life has been difficult ever since.

The birthday card from Coughlin is one of half-a-dozen such letters sent from the highest ranking officials at Riggs to Pinochet and other members of the Chilean military that have been found in bank files by Senate investigators in Washington. Although their "Supplemental Staff Report on U.S. Accounts Used By Augusto Pinochet" contains page after page of data on Pinochet's secret transfer of millions of dollars through 28 different Riggs accounts and at least 100 other accounts that Pinochet, his family and their frontmen kept at other banks in the United States, it is the letters, sent after multiple meetings with Pinochet, that provide the color of this scandal, that reveal the close, cozy relations his bankers established with the former dictator in order to continue to have his multi-million dollar banking business. They gave him gifts of computer games, and the secret transfer of his money; he gave them cufflinks, military medallions, expensive lapis lazuli boxes, and his memoirs of the bloody coup that brought him to power, The Decisive Day.

The letters are so extraordinary that they need only be quoted. Here are some excerpts:

November 4, 1994, after a delegation from Riggs has visited Chile,, bank president Timothy Coughlin writes to Pinochet to solicit his personal banking business:

It would be an honor for us to open an account for you and to assist you with any banking services you may require outside of Chile. …I also want you to know that I have prominently displayed the very handsome medallion you presented me…and I will be pleased to show it to you if you ever decide to visit Washington D.C. and of course Riggs Bank.

November 14, 1997, from Riggs Chairman, Joseph Albritton, after a visit with Pinochet at the Lo Curo Military Club in Santiago:

Dear General Pinochet:

I am pleased to report the business relationship between Riggs and the Chilean Military is prospering. I am also grateful for our thriving personal friendship, which you have demonstrated through your gracious hospitality and stalwart support of the Riggs. …You have rid Chile from the threat of totalitarian government and an archaic economic system based on state-owned property and centralized planning. We in the United States and the rest of the western hemisphere owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude and I am confident your legacy will have been to provide a more prosperous and safer world for your children and grandchildren. …Warmest personal regards

October 31, 1997, Allbritton's wife Barbara, wrote a similar thank you letter:

My dear General Pinochet:

It was a great pleasure and honor to be with you on Wednesday at tea at the Military Club. You were so very gracious to allow us this time with you and I was extremely pleased to have this appointment to meet and be with your son Marco Antonio. …The elegant lapis lazuli box you so kindly gave to me shall be used and displayed with a great deal of pride and pleasure. It shall be a reminder of this special time we spent with you during our trip to Santiago.

With appreciation and respect for you and all you have done for our world.

Pinochet was not the only Chilean general to receive such sweet, flowery letters. General Ricardo Izurieta, as an attaché at the Chilean embassy in Washington and then as Pinochet's successor as commander-in-chief, also received them. In the mid 1990's, the Senate report shows, Izurieta played the role of an intermediary between Pinochet and Riggs officials. In November, 1995, for example, Uzurieta relayed an invitation to Allbritton to come to Vina Del Mar and attend the Horse Derby there with General Pinochet. After he became commander-in-chief Izurieta forcefully played a role in obtaining Pinochet's release from London. But just before Pinochet's return to Chile, Izurieta met with a Riggs delegation, led by Chairman Allbritton, and showed them extensive hospitality. Soon, Allbritton would write yet another glowing note: "Where do I begin to thank you? You graced our suite with the sweet smell of beautiful flowers and Chilean wine. You gave us your time on the very eve of the General's return."

Such letters are not the typical U.S. document found in classified archives of the U.S. government; but these are as informative and revealing as any White House memorandum. They capture the ties between a powerful bank, and its corrupt and violent client in a way that few classified documents could. And they, among the other financial records unearthed by U.S. Senate investigators, will have a strong impact on Pinochet's legacy and the legacies of those who showered him with their fawning support.

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