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Chile: the prison of a former mayor for fraud splashes the government of Gabriel Boric

The prison of a former mayor of Vitacura, one of the wealthiest communes of Santiago, and the partisan suspension of a deputy from the pro-government coalition, brought a new debate on corruption in Chile into the spotlight. The case, which splashes the government of Gabriel Boric, It takes on a greater dimension as it is one of the regional countries with the best records against corrupt practices.

The plot was uncovered in 2021 when the authorities of the Vitacura commune denounced various financial irregularities committed in that Santiago municipality. According to these complaints, on a monthly and for several years, sums of money had been given to Raúl Torrealba, who left his post as mayor two years ago forced by municipal law that prevented him from running for re-election.

Torrealba is a longtime member of Chile’s conservative traditional right-wing party Renovación Nacional.

Last friday, A judge decreed the preventive detention order of 150 days for Torrealba, who is accused of tax fraud, illicit association, tax offenses and money laundering, in addition to leading an organization suspected of defrauding with public money from Vitacura.

The organization in question is Democracia Viva, from the northern region of Antofagasta. This foundation is legally represented by Daniel Andrade, former partner of the pro-government deputy Catalina Pérez, which is part of the Democratic Renovation (RD) party, member of the Broad Front, the government coalition led by President Gabriel Boric.

After days of debates, the RD board of directors filed a complaint on Tuesday against all those found responsible in the context of the case and separated deputy Pérez from the party.

Along the same lines, President Boric on Sunday described the case as “very serious” and declared: “You cannot diminish or try to lower the profile of this situation. There are political responsibilities here that must be asserted. Justice will have to determine its path.

The prosecutor, Francisco Jacir, requested the precautionary measure against the former mayor Torrealba “to prevent the defendant from continuing to commit the crime of money laundering and the concealment of their patrimony continues to take place.”

Together with Torrealba’s imprisonment, the judge ordered nightly house arrest, national detention, a monthly signature, and a ban on communicating with each other. to the rest of the defendants: Antonia Larraín, collaborator of the mayor; the former director of Democracia Viva, Domingo Prieto Urrejola; the former director of Community Development of the municipality, José Renato Sepúlveda; and the accountants, Augusto César Silva Silva and Arnaldo Cañas González.

Once the case was revealed, Antonia Larraín decided to “self-report” and collaborate with the Public Ministry. “I handled envelopes with money,” he admitted Larraín and added that “This has been happening since July or August 2018, when I began to occupy the position of director of Community Development. As soon as I took office, Mayor Raúl Torrealba summoned me to his office and told me that every month I would receive an envelope with the approximate sum of 5 million pesos (6,250 dollars) that I had to deliver to him”, he stated in the case.

According to the accusation, during the management of Torrealba in Vitacura (1996-2021) public funds amounting to some 450,000 dollars would have been diverted.

According to what emerged from the investigation, Democracia Viva signed three suspicious agreements with the regional housing service (Seremi) for the Antofagasta region. Senator Juan Ignacio Latorre, the president of the DR, said that Democracia Viva does not belong to that political group, although it manages programs aimed at offering health and sports services to residents.

With only 85,400 inhabitants, the commune of Vitacura It is the place with the best quality of life in the metropolitan area, with flat and mountainous areas at the foot of the Andes Mountains and less than an hour from downtown Santiago.

Experts consulted by EFE point out that the cases of the former conservative mayor Torrealba and the suspicious relations between the progressive Renovación Democrática party and the investigated foundation show that corruption is transversal and does not depend only on political colors.

According to an index prepared by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the consulting firm Control Risks, Chile is the third Latin American state that best fights corruption casesonly behind Uruguay and Costa Rica.

The study warns, however, that the continent’s average fell for the first time since 2020, since ten of the fifteen evaluated fell in their score.

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