SWISS ON MARCOS FUND: TIME RUNNING OUT!

MANILA, August 14, 2003 (STAR) This was what Swiss Ambassador Lise Fabre told Philippine authorities yesterday as she urged government officials to speed up their efforts to recover the remaining ill-gotten wealth of Marcos cronies currently frozen in Swiss banks.

She said that as far as her government is concerned, certain Marcos cronies still have a total of about $10 million deposited in Swiss banks.

"There is still $10 million in Switzerland, frozen, waiting for a decision by a Filipino court. So as soon as this position is taken, we would also be happy to return the money to the Philippine government," Fabre told reporters yesterday.

The envoy cited the lifting of the freeze order on some $30 million deposits of the Marcoses in Swiss banks, after the Philippine government failed to produce evidence that it is pursuing criminal proceedings against the alleged owners of the accounts.

The accounts were reportedly under the names of Marcos relatives and associates Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez, Ignacio and Fe Roa Gimenez, Marcosí oil minister Geronimo Velasco, Carmencita Clavecilla and Alfredo de Borja, among other people.

"Time is short definitely," Fabre said.

She disclosed that apart from the $10-million dollar account belonging to some so-called cronies of former President Ferdinand Marcos, there is no other "phenomenally huge" bank account in Swiss banks belonging to the Marcos family.

Asked about the existence of a so-called $13.2-billion account of Irene Marcos-Araneta, the youngest daughter of the late strongman, Fabre said there was no such account.

"I can assure you, that money is not in Switzerland," Fabre said, adding that her government is extending all the assistance they can to the Philippines to recover ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcos family and their cronies during their 20-year regime.

The Philippine government was earlier given the go-signal by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice to dispose of the $683 million Marcos deposits currently held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank (PNB).

This came after the Philippine Supreme Court released a landmark ruling declaring that the money was ill gotten and therefore forfeited in favor of the government.

Meanwhile, a long-stalled lawsuit seeking to recover $40 million in assets of the late Philippine dictator could go to trial by the end of the year, Sherry Broder, an attorney for the plaintiffs said.

Broder shared that US District Judge Manuel L. Real last week ruled against a motion seeking to have the Philippine government dismissed from the case and set a pretrial conference date for September.

"The matter will go to trial hopefully by the end of the year," she said.

The $40 million has also been held in escrow because of competing claims of ownership by the Marcos estate, the Philippine government and the human rights victims. It is separate from $683 million in frozen Swiss assets that the Supreme Court awarded to the government last month.

The money is being sought to begin paying thousands of Filipinos who won a now-$3.1 billion judgment against the Marcoses for human rights abuses, but havenít seen a penny since the ruling by a Honolulu jury eight years ago.

A class of 9,539 Filipinos sued the Marcos estate in 1986, the year he was deposed and fled to Hawaii. He died in exile in 1989.

In 1995, a Honolulu jury awarded plaintiffs $2 billion after finding Marcos responsible for summary executions, disappearances and torture. The judgment has been stalled in court and has grown to about $3.1 billion with interest.

"We want to resolve who owns the money," Broder said. President Arroyo also promised to set aside at least $147 million of the Swiss assets to compensate victims of human rights abuse under Marcos. ó Rainier Allan Ronda


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2003  by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE