Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Former intelligence chief implicates Pinochet over drugs


General Augusto Pinochet's former intelligence chief has implicated the former dictator and one of his sons in a cocaine manufacturing and smuggling scheme and contends that it was one of the sources of Pinochet's illicit US$28 million fortune.

General Manuel Contreras, who ran the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Chilean secret police, during the 1970s, made the charges in a document submitted last week to an investigating magistrate. He also accused Pinochet of embezzling money from secret government accounts that the dictator controlled during his 17 years in power, which ended in 1990.

According to Contreras' account, the cocaine was processed with Pinochet's authorization at a Chilean Army chemical plant during the 1980s. Pinochet's son Marco Antonio and one of his business partners then arranged for the drugs to be transported to Europe and the US, with payoffs going into secret bank accounts abroad, Contreras' account said.

The accusations were first reported on Sunday in the Chilean newspaper La Nacion. Contreras has been in jail since last year in connection with human rights abuses and was unavailable for comment. But his lawyer, Fidel Reyes, and judicial officials confirmed on Monday that the account published accurately reflected the written statement Contreras gave to the magistrate.

During the 1970s, when the worst of the military dictatorship's human rights abuses occurred, Contreras was one of Pinochet's closest and most trusted associates. But the two men have fallen out in recent years, with Contreras contending that he is being made the scapegoat for human rights violations for which Pinochet should take responsibility.

In 1993, a Chilean court sentenced Contreras to seven years in prison for his role in the 1976 assassination in Washington of Orlando Letelier, a former foreign minister of Chile. He has also been convicted of kidnapping a Socialist Party leader in 1974, and convicted in Argentina of the 1974 bombing assassination of a former Chilean army chief opposed to Pinochet.

Spokesmen for Pinochet, who is now 90, ailing and reviled even by many who once supported him, and Marco Antonio Pinochet, on Monday angrily denied Contreras' accusations, which the Chilean army said it would investigate. A lawyer for Marco Antonio Pinochet said he would file a libel suit yesterday.

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