Presidential hopeful Marco EnrÃquez-Ominami is taking steps to distance himself from a former advisor, Edgardo Lepe, who last month was found guilty for misuse of state funds to finance campaign activities.
Lepe was found guilty of fraud by ValparaÃso Judge Juan Carlos Maggiolo, who handed down a 540-day suspended sentence and ordered Lepe to pay $770,000 Chilean pesos (CH) (US$1,400).
The prosecutors showed that in December 2005 Lepe misused more than CH$23 million in public funds (US$42,000) to finance political campaigns during the congressional election.
These funds actually went to Socialist Party functionary Luis FernÃ¡ndez, who decided which campaigns would receive the money. FernÃ¡ndez was then working for EnrÃquez-Ominami, as well as former Councilman Ricardo LeÃ³n, also a member of the Socialist Party (PS).
Maggiolo handed similar sentences, with a CH$4 million (US$7,300) fine, to former Regional Secretary of Labor JosÃ© Manuel Mancilla and Jaime Quiroz, a former official in the Region V administration.
EnrÃquez-Ominami later left the Socialist Party to run for president as an independent candidate and currently is running a close third in presidential opinion polls.
Lepe led EnrÃquez-Ominamiâ€™s successful campaign for deputy and worked as chief of staff for PS Sen. Carlos Ominami, the presidential candidateâ€™s stepfather.
EnrÃquez-Ominami has so far had little to say on the topic, but last weekend emphasized that he and his campaign werenâ€™t involved in any wrongdoing.
â€œWe have nothing to do with each other, Carlos and I,â€ EnrÃquez-Ominami said. â€œThe prosecutor (agreed). Anyone who doubts that can go to the prosecutorâ€™s office. Carlos and I, each on our own account, have asked the prosecutors twice if they have any doubtsâ€¦ Anyone who has any doubts can ask the prosecutor.â€
Sen. Ominami admitted that he had kept in contact with Lepe, who was one of his closest advisors for 15 years, but reiterated that neither he nor his stepson had been involved.
â€œI heard that he â€¦ was facing a painful situation. At least he didnâ€™t go to jail, and heâ€™ll be able to remake his life.â€
SOURCES: LA TERCERA, EL MERCURIO