Manila, Jan. 23, 2003 (Tribune) - The Senate panel probing the alleged $14-million payoff for the $470-million Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (Impsa) has tapped the assistance of the Hong Kong government's anti-corruption agency to secure all pertinent documents, presumably banking transactions related to the Impsa-Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan (CBK) hydroelectric power plant deal.

The panel headed by Sen. John Osmeņa had earlier discovered that the ruling issued by then Justice Secretary Hernando Perez on the Impsa contract had, as an attachment, the long list of creditor banks. This provided substance to the earlier allegations that Perez issued that ruling of a sovereign guarantee precisely addressed to the creditor-banks of Impsa, for the power firm to be provided access to bank loans, which would be guaranteed by the Philippine government, under a sovereign basis.

Besides issuing subpoena for the documents, the panel had also summoned any representatives of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to testify on whatever information they would have collated.

It was charged that Perez kept $2 million allegedly for the IMPSA deal under the names of his alleged dummies, such as Ernest Escaler and his brother in law, Ramon Arceo Jr.

In a letter dated Jan. 21, 2003, Osmena asked ICAC's Abrose Lee-Sui-Kwong for assistance in securing documents from the Coutts Bank in Hong Kong regarding Perez' alleged deposits.

The letter said in part:

"The money was allegedly deposited with Coutts Bank, Hong Kong under the name of one Ernest de Leon Escaler. There is no information from Congressman Mark Jimenez as to where the balance went.

"In this connection, may be therefore seek your kind assistance on this matter and request your good office to furnish us with relevant documents and, or information not only on the alleged $2 million deposit with Coutts Bank but also on the remaining amounts that may have also been deposited in any of the banks within your area of jurisdiction.

"We would also take this opportunity to invite you or any of your representative to come to Manila to shed light on matters that may have been discovered by our office in the course of your inquiry on the matter," the senator said in his two-page letter. Rep. Wilfrido Villarama (2nd District, Bulacan) disclosed that Mark Jimenez had allegedly paid Perez $2 million in consideration for his signing a revised Department of Justice (DoJ) opinion that supposedly granted direct guarantee to Impsa and its financiers.

Perez' issuance of legal opinion, made four days after President Arroyo assumed power, allegedly paved the way for the consummation of the final contract entered into by the government and the Argentine firm Impsa.

Former President Estrada testified before the Senate last Jan. 14 that Jimenez had allegedly tried to bribe him with $14 million to approve of the Impsa contract but refused.

Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, during Estrada's appearance, went on to reveal other information coming from Jimenez that the alleged money was supposedly also offered to the present administration and attested that $2 million of which was supposedly given to Perez.

The rest were divided among supposedly the following: $1 million to "Malacaņang boys"; $4 million to the presidential couple. The remaining $7 million, sources said, was allegedly pocketed by Jimenez.

Simultaneous with the so-called paper trail efforts of the panel, summons letters are due to be served anytime soon to Escaler and lawyer Ramon Arceo, said to be brother-in-law of Perez, for them to testify before the Senate in the next scheduled public hearing.

On the list of Impsa's creditor-banks are the following: BNP Paribas as lead arranger and as lender; The Dal-loi Kangyo Bank, Limited as lead arranger, as lender, as intercreditor agent, as PRI facility agent, as debt service reserve facility agent, and as performance security facility agent, The Industrial Bank of Japan Ltd., Hong Kong Branch as lead arranger and as lender; Societe Generale as lead arranger and as lender; Citibank, N.A. as onshore collateral agent and as offshore collateral agent; ABB Structured Finance B.V. as lender; ANZ Singapore Ltd. as lender; Banco Santander Central Hispano SA as lender; The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. as lender; Bayerische Hype und Voreinsbank AG as lender; Credit Agricole Indusuez as lender; Fortia Bank (Nederland) N.V. Singapore Branch as lender; KBC Bank N.V. Hong Kong Branch as lender; Noreldeutsche Landerbank Girozentrale, Singapore Branch as lender; The Norinchukin Banks as lender; Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oaterreich AG PRZB-Austrai), Singapore Branch as lender; The Samwa The Tokai Bank, Ltd. as lender; UniCredito Italiano S.P.A. Singapore Branch as lender and Westdeuteche Landesbank Cirozentrale as lender.

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