BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - An emaciated 58-year-old Uruguayan man found alive four months after disappearing in the remote Andes Mountains had fled Chile after accusations he sexually abused a minor, a local Chilean prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui, who reportedly survived the brutal Andean winter eating rats, raisins and leftover supplies in a shelter, is accused of abusing an 8-year-old in the poor neighborhood of Cerro Navia in Santiago.
A Santiago branch of the prosecutor’s office put Gomez under investigation in April and banned him from leaving the Andean country.
But Gomez, a plumber, reportedly set out in May to cross the mountains from Chile to Argentina on foot but lost his way during a snowstorm.
Argentine officials from the northwestern province of San Juan on Sunday stumbled upon Gomez in a shelter 9,318 feet above sea level when they traveled there to record snow levels. He has given no details about his trek but reportedly lost 44 pounds during the ordeal and is dehydrated.
“(He) sought to evade justice,” the Chilean prosecutor’s office said in a statement on its website. The prosecutor is now asking Argentine authorities to extradite Gomez to Chile.
His daughter Paula Gomez has rebutted the accusations.
“(The issue) arose because of an aunt with whom we don’t have a good relationship but it’s been resolved,” Paula Gomez was quoted as saying on Sunday by Argentine state news agency Telam.
Chilean media have reported Gomez is accused of abusing his sister-in-law’s son.
“He was being looked for because he disappeared, not for any other reason,” Paula Gomez said.
It was not immediately possible to contact the Argentine judiciary or the Gomez family.
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Bill Trott