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Bank holds Pinochet's millions, Chile says

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A Hong Kong bank has a multimillion-dollar gold deposit registered to Augusto Pinochet, the government said yesterday . Newspapers put the total at some $160 million, but a lawyer and a spokesman for the former Chilean dictator denied it.

Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley said the Chilean government received information about the account through diplomatic channels several days ago.

Foxley said the information, which included photocopies of documents, is not official but was relayed to the courts that have been investigating Pinochet's fortune abroad for years.

Retired General Guillermo Garin, a spokesman for Pinochet, said he had no information on the alleged deposit at Hong Kong's HSBC bank.

"I had never heard anything about this before," Garin said by telephone. "But I have no doubt whatsoever that this report has no real basis at all."

Pinochet's lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, denied the report, saying: "The only gold General Pinochet owns is his wedding ring. This report is totally and absolutely false. He doesn't own a single gram of gold at any bank. And if a single gram appears, I will be the first one to resign as his lawyer."

El Mercurio, one of the papers that first published the report, quoted a representative for HSBC, Garet Hewett, as saying he cannot confirm or deny the report.

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