Former conservative Senator Jaime Orpis has been bestowed Friday with the dubious honour of becoming Chile’s first-ever politician to be handed down a jail sentence for his involvement in acts of corruption.
Orpis, of the ultra-conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, of the current government coalition of President Sebastián Piñera, was sentenced to five years for the crime of tax fraud and 600 days for bribery, as per a lengthy ruling from the nation’s Third Oral Court.
He was found guilty of receiving money in 2013 from the then manager of the company Corpesca – Chile’s largest fishing company – in exchange for favouring it during the processing of a new fishing law.
Orpis, who is under house arrest pending a final verdict, has maintained his innocence and announced he would appeal the sentence. “Today I reiterate with all my strength that I did not commit bribery,” he said in a statement. He underlined it was a split decision by the Court, which means that his own view of the issue has already seen some support from the judiciary.
The Corpesca case is the first investigation into the illegal financing of politics. After almost six years, the case has ended up in various convictions and an effective term of imprisonment. The case was led by the North Central Prosecutor’s Office and it involved more than 100 witnesses, 1,000 documents and a ruling of over 3,600 pages showing politicians received bribes from the Corpesca fishing company, of the Angelini Group, to further their interests in Congress, as the Fishing Law was under Parliamentary consideration.
“No one ever bought my conscience or my vote, nor did I sell my freedom. Today I was convicted of that crime of which I am innocent and until the last day of my life I will uphold that innocence,” said the former Senator. UDI leaders have concurrently voiced their support for their disgraced colleague.
The convicted person must successively serve both sentences, said Judge Claudia Bugueño during the reading of the sentence, although the time that he was already in preventive and domiciliary detention will be subtracted, for which he will finally spend more than three years in jail and he will also have to pay a hefty fine, as well as being barred from public offices
UDI Deputy Marta Isasi was sentenced to 50 days in prison, which she has already served under house arrest.