The Chilean media reported on September 26 that the Attorney-General’s Office is investigating former-president and current presidential candidate Sebastian Piñera. The investigation focuses on irregular payments in the form of false invoices made by the Chemical and Mining Society of Chile (SQM) to Piñera’s successful presidential campaign in 2009.
Piñera is the candidate for the center-right Chile Vamos coalition and is one of eight candidates running for the presidency with elections to be held on November 19. Piñera was widely considered the frontrunner before the news of the scandal broke, and it remains unclear how the investigation will affect his candidacy.
The investigation into Piñera began as a part of a broader examination of SQM’s political contributions to various politicians in both the Chile Vamos coalition and the ruling center-left New Majority coalition. SQM’s contribution to Piñera amounted to $7,800 that were given through payments to a film-production firm belonging to the spouse of Piñera’s head of audio-visual production on his 2009 and 2017 campaigns. The firm was involved in Piñera’s 2010 campaign and inauguration.
Piñera responded to the allegations by acknowledging that his campaign is and has been under investigation and stating that he has complied with authorities. He also pointedly stated that each case has failed to find any wrongdoing.
Historically, Piñera has faced controversy with money and politics due to perceived conflicts of interest stemming from his vast wealth. In spite of this, Piñera presented himself as immune to being swayed by large donors.
In response to the recent allegations, Piñera Spokesperson Gonzalo Cordero continues to argue that Piñera would not have even known about such a small sum, and, even if the case finds evidence of wrongdoing, it will not be connected to the candidate himself.
All of Piñera’s rivals for the presidency, led by Alejandro Guillier of the New Majority and Beatriz Sánchez of the Broad Front, criticized him for his campaign financing issues in debates held on September 28. Politicians in Chile are on edge as they wait to see how these new details affect a race that was once seen as Piñera’s to lose.