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Names In the News
Riggs Pleas on Pinochet
Riggs Bank pled guilty in January to a federal criminal violation of the Bank Secrecy Act for failure to report accurately suspicious monetary transactions associated with bank accounts owned and controlled by Augusto Pinochet of Chile and by the government of Equatorial Guinea.
When sentenced later in the year, Riggs will be fined $16 million and placed on probation for five years.
A federal investigation revealed that Riggs allowed accounts belonging to former Chilean president and dictator Augusto Pinochet and the Government of Equatorial Guinea to be used to transfer large sums of money in a highly suspicious manner and failed to report such transactions to the proper authorities, as required by law.
Augusto Pinochet was the de facto leader or president of Chile from 1973 to 1990, the Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces from 1990 to 1998, and a Chilean Senator from 1998 to 2002.
Numerous countries, including Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and France, have issued warrants against Pinochet for human rights crimes.
In 1998, a Spanish Magistrate issued an attachment order purporting to freeze all Pinochet assets worldwide.
Between 1994 and 2002, Pinochet and his wife, Lucia Hiriart Rodriguez, maintained multiple bank accounts, investments and certificates of deposits at Riggs. During this time period, Pinochet deposited more than $10 million into the Pinochet accounts.
Federal officials alleged that Riggs personnel transferred Pinochet monies in a manner to avoid scrutiny. For example, in March of 1999, notwithstanding the outstanding attachment order that purported to freeze all of Pinochet’s assets, Pinochet prematurely terminated a certificate of deposit held in a London account at Riggs and transferred the funds, approximately $1.6 million, to a Certificate of Deposit at Riggs in the United States.
Between August 2000 and January 2003, in five separate episodes, Riggs also converted $1.9 million from the Pinochet accounts by breaking them into smaller $50,000 cashiers checks and delivering them to Pinochet in Chile.
Riggs now acknowledges that the transactions involving Pinochet and Equatorial Guinea were suspicious, that it failed to conduct adequate due diligence on what it knew or should have known was a high risk account, and failed to report the transactions as called for by law.
OSHA Workers Endangered
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is finding that a significant percentage of its inspectors have become sensitized by exposure to beryllium, an extremely toxic metal that can cause an often-fatal lung disease, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
OSHA acted to screen inspectors only under pressure from disclosures of one of its own top administrators, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
An agency database OSHA created more than 5 years ago indicates that as many as 1,000 current and former compliance officers may have been exposed to beryllium levels up to several hundred times higher than permissible levels.
OSHA finally began a medical monitoring program in April 2004, but only for its current inspectors.
The first results from those screenings reportedly show that 1.5 percent of the 200 inspectors examined have become sensitized to beryllium.
Hundreds of workers in various private industries have already died of chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a fast-progressing, debilitating and potentially fatal lung disease in those whose immune systems have become sensitized following exposure to the substance.
The only known cause of CBD is exposure to beryllium dust.
“Every American worker who expects OSHA to protect him from hazardous exposures on the job should take a hard look at how the agency has abandoned and deceived its own employees exposed to beryllium,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
Political intervention to alter scientific results has become pervasive within the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) but is particularly rife in Florida, according to a survey of its scientists by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The two groups surveyed more than 1,400 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologists, ecologists, botanists and other specialists working on Endangered Species Act and other wildlife or habitat protection programs across the country. The groups released the survey results in February.
— Russell Mokhiber