PYRAMID QUEEN OFF TO JAIL TODAY

Manila, March 19, 2003 -- The Senate will turn over Rosario Baladjay, president of Multinational Telecom Corp. (Multitel), to the court for incarceration until the charges of syndicated estafa filed against her are resolved.

Senate President Frank Drilon told Malaya yesterday the Senate committee on commerce and trade headed by Sen. Robert Jaworski will release her from detention for contempt after she was asked questions in an executive session of the Senate.

Jaworski was heard as saying Baladjay cannot be held in detention much longer by the Senate because the courts have to try her for charges of syndicated estafa, which is not bailable.

Drilon would not reveal what transpired in yesterday's hearing.

Sources in the Senate, however, revealed that Baladjay claimed 385 of her investment counselors organized 11 cooperatives which she said invested P500 million in Multitel.

She explained that other investment counselors or solicitors turned over to her company another P500 million, making it appear that her liability is only P1 billion.

Under intense questioning, Baladjay refused to reveal which bank in Europe accepted what she claimed is a $200 million (P11 billion at today's rate of exchange) deposit. She said Multitel has a non-disclosure agreement with a foreign partner which prevents her from disclosing where the money came from.

Baladjay refused to say where Multitel invested the P500 million given to the company by the 11 cooperatives. She did not identify the organizers of the cooperatives, nor did she say what type of cooperatives they are.

She also testified that the Anti-Money Laundering Council froze P500 million of Multitel's deposits in Real Bank, a savings bank. She also said Multitel has smaller deposits in Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

It would be recalled that Baladjay earlier spread the word among her complaining investors that Multitel has a foreign partner called MLC (Multinational Lending Corp.) in the United States.

Tomas Syquia, head of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission, disclosed as early as last year that the said US company does not exist in the United States as verified by the US SEC.

Baladjay submitted to the Senate a written statement where she said she was approached by several people, including Steve Salonga, son of former Senate President Jovito Salonga, for the organization of a financial mechanism that will presumably handle the investments she solicited.

A Malaya source in the Senate also said the statement mentions the name of Willie Wycoco, brother of NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco. The source, however, would not reveal whether or not Baladjay implicated the NBI director's brother.

Many of her victims, however, said her claim could not be true because there is no legitimate financial advisory group that can find investments that will produce about 20 percent a month in income.

The income has to be this big, several of her investors said, because at one time, Multitel was paying them as much as 12-15 percent a month.

A staff member of one senator said Baladjay appeared confused when she was asked questions about her claim of having $200 million in a bank in Europe.

He pointed out that the senator, a lawyer, explained that she could be forced by the court to reveal the source of the money and the details of the so-called non-disclosure agreement.

"There is no such agreement anywhere in the world," the senator was quoted as saying.

Two cases of syndicated estafa have so far been filed against Baladjay. One was filed in Bulacan and the other in Makati.

Warrants of arrest for estafa were issued by the municipal trial court in Dinalupihan, Bataan against her.

The latest case was filed by a dentist in a trial court in Muntinlupa.

The police in Mangaldan, Pangasinan, arrested her late last week.

Before Baladjay could post bail, Jaworski ordered her detained in the Senate holding cell for contempt. She was cited for contempt for ignoring the three summonses issued by Jaworski's committee. (By AMADO P. MACASAET, Malaya)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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