December 19, 2016 / 7:15 PM / a year ago

Chile billionaire, congressman face off in slander trial

SANTIAGO, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Chilean billionaire Andronico Luksic testified on the first day of a colorful, at times explicit slander trial on Monday, seeking damages from a congressman who called him a “son of a bitch” and “the king of criminals” earlier this year.

Independent congressman Gaspar Rivas and Luksic, a member of Chile’s richest family who has stakes in several industries and chairs industrial conglomerate Quinenco, have been publicly at odds for the better part of 2016.

Rivas first insulted Luksic during a session of Congress in April, captivating local media in normally reserved Chile. Amid other accusations, Rivas said Luksic had the “luxury of flooding Santiago” after Chile’s Mapocho River overflowed its banks, inundating the city.

Rivas did not explain Luksic’s connection to the flooding. But the Mapocho flows into the Maipo River, where Luksic has a stake in a future dam project. Environmental and community activists fear the dam will dry up the water supply of traditional mountain valley towns east of Santiago.

In a follow-up interview with a local weekly paper, Rivas, who says public opinion must be the judge and has refused to apologize to Luksic, listed some additional, sexually charged Chilean slang words he could have applied to the billionaire.

During the televised trial in Santiago, Luksic listed Rivas’ insults, at times pausing uncomfortably before repeating some of his more licentious statements.

“I‘m tremendously hurt, surprised ... that we’re falling into this kind of thing with a representative of the Republic,” he said.

As Luksic attempted to exit the courthouse he was surrounded by Chileans protesting the Alto Maipo dam project. Some spat at the business leader and called him a “son of a bitch,” mimicking Rivas’ words.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Tom Brown

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