Global News

This article first appeared in DW on April 17, 2021.

Chilean Justice issued this Friday (16.04.2021) the first effective prison sentence against a politician for crimes committed while he was in office: the former conservative senator Jaime Orpis was sentenced to more than five years and 600 days in prison for corruption.

Orpis – former senator of the ultra-conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, part of President Sebastián Piñera’s current coalition government – was sentenced to five years for tax fraud and 600 days for bribery, according to a lengthy ruling by the Third Oral Court.

The former senator was found guilty of receiving money in 2013 from the then manager of the company Corpesca – Chile’s largest fishing company – in exchange for favoring it during the processing of a new Fisheries Law.

The convicted person will have to serve both sentences successively, said Judge Claudia Bugueño during the reading of the sentence, although the time he already spent in preventive and house arrest will be subtracted, so he will finally spend more than three years in prison and will also have to pay a fine of more than 150,000 dollars. The former conservative senator was also disqualified from holding public office.

Together with him, and in the framework of the same investigation, the former independent deputy Marta Isasi was also convicted for the crime of bribery, but the sentence of 50 days of imprisonment imposed was already served during the investigation under house arrest.

After a series of allegations of irregular political financing that broke out in Chile during the previous government of socialist Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018), only Orpis’ case ended in a jail sentence.

In the rest of the cases – mostly for the use of false invoices or for services not actually rendered – the lawsuits were filed as the criteria of the Internal Revenue Service to pursue companies that illegally financed political campaigns in the country changed. As for the company Corpesca, it will have to pay a fine of more than US$ 700,000.