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Latino Daily News

Friday May 4, 2012

Health Officials in Chile Suspected of Embezzling $10 Million, Maybe More

Health Officials in Chile Suspected of Embezzling $10 Million, Maybe More

Photo: Corruption in Chile

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Chilean prosecutors are investigating the embezzlement of at least $10 million by health service officials in the capital region, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich said Thursday.

The alleged corruption centered on the Metropolitan Health Service West, which serves some 2 million people in greater Santiago.

Three finance officials are accused of establishing dummy corporations that billed the agency for non-existent services, Mañalich told reporters.

The scheme went on for several years, according to the minister, who said some of the embezzled money may have been funneled into political campaigns, as was the case in previous public corruption scandals.

“The paper corporations ... were founded starting in 1999,” he said, adding that roughly 270 million pesos ($560,000) in illicit payments have been documented so far.

“We have found the payment of bills that add up to roughly 5 billion pesos ($10 million) that were collected over the course of several years in checks of small amounts by representatives or owners of the paper corporations,” Mañalich said.

The officials under investigation have been removed from their posts and their bank accounts were frozen, the health minister said.