PCGG STILL ON TRAIL OF MORE MARCOS SWISS FUNDS

MANILA, August 26, 2003 (STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda And Aurea Calica  - More money traceable to the Marcos family and their cronies are still stashed in various banks in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) said yesterday.

In a press briefing at their offices in Mandaluyong, PCGG commissioner Ruben Carranza said they are working to recover the money deposited in frozen accounts in favor of the Philippine government.

"There are two (sets of) accounts we are still following up," he said. "Number one is the Marcos account in the bank known as Lombard Odier, involving funds of three entities known as Mabari, Gladiator and Praetorian. The three entities have accounts in Lombard Odier traceable to the Marcoses."

Carranza said aside from the three foundations in Switzerland, there was another set of accounts in two foundations, namely, Lalag and Galalza, which they were still monitoring in Liechtenstein.

"They’re Liechtenstein entities," he said. "They also opened accounts in Switzerland, various accounts in various banks."

Carranza said he cannot give the amounts involved in the accounts of five Swiss and Liechtenstein foundations.

"We’re not talking here about the exact amount of money," he said. "We’re talking about accounts. At any given time, it’s hard to fix the amounts (involved)."

But Swiss Ambassador Lise Fabre said as far as her government was concerned, only $10 million belonging to Marcos cronies were deposited in Swiss banks.

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

The Philippines should speed up efforts to recover the $10 million as freeze orders on the account could expire, she added.

Fabre said apart from the $10-million, there are no other "phenomenally huge" bank account in Swiss banks belonging to the Marcos family.

As to the so-called $13.2-billion account of Irene Marcos-Araneta, Fabre said there was no such money deposited in Swiss banks.

"I can assure you, that money is not in Switzerland," she said.

Fabre spoke to local reporters last Aug. 5 after the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) gave the Philippine government the go-signal to dispose about $683 million deposited in an escrow account in the Philippine National Bank (PNB).

The go-signal was given after the Swiss FOJ was informed of the July 15 Supreme Court ruling declaring the $683 million as ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and forfeiting it in favor of the government.

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

Branding as "fabricated" the claims of a visiting Swiss lawyer, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said yesterday the Marcoses own the $683 million, and not several foundations in Switzerland.

Lawyer Patrick Foetish, who arrived Tuesday last week, has disputed the July 15 decision of the Supreme Court forfeiting the money in favor of the government.

Based on reports, Foetish said he would block any effort to get the $683 million if no court decision is rendered based on a trial.

He was representing and protecting the interests of the Swiss foundations, Foetish added.

Carranza said Foetish was making a mockery of the Supreme Court and trying to fool 70 million Filipinos.

Foetish is lawyering for the Marcoses, Carranza said, and wondered how he could claim that the five foundations Aguamina, Avertina, Sandy, Maler and Arelma had nothing to do with the Marcoses when their beneficiaries are Maria Imelda "Imee," Ferdinand Jr. "Bongbong,"and Irene, the children of the late strongman.

Former first lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos had also declared before the Sandiganbayan that she wasthe sole beneficiary of 90 percent of the $683 million, he added.

In a statement, the OSG said Foetish cannot impose conditions on how the Philippine judicial system should handle and dispose of a case.

"This claim is a rehash of the Marcoses’ contention that no judgment could be rendered without a trial," the OSG said in a statement signed by Solicitors Ferdinand Peralta, Nestor Ballacillo and Mark Anthony Atienza.

"A trial is not necessary considering the admissions of the Marcoses spread all over the record of the case."

The OSG said it was convinced the Marcoses had directed the foundations to release $150 million in 1998 for the human rights victims of martial law.

"Mr. Foetish refused to identify the persons behind the Swiss foundations," the OSG said.

"His claim that the Marcoses have nothing to do with the foundations is pure canard."

The OSG said Foetish as attorney-in-fact of the five foundations agreed to release, assign and/or waive all their rights and interests over $150 million of the $683 million to human rights victims.

"It would be the height of absurdity for the Swiss foundations to agree to release $150 million to the human rights victims to answer for the liability of the Marcoses, if it were not true that the Swiss foundations are owned by the Marcoses," the OSG said.

The Sandiganbayan rejected the motion to approve the undertaking in 1999.

The OSG said the escrow agreement between the PCGG and the PNB provides for a disposition of the funds based on a final and enforceable judgment of the Sandiganbayan or any competent court in the Philippines without mentioning that the judgment must be based only on a trial.

The OSG said the decision to seize or restitute the money must be made in the Philippines where the criminal actions were committed.

"There is therefore, no doubt in the minds of the Swiss authorities that the Swiss deposits held in the name of the foundations are ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses," the OSG said.

The decisions of the Swiss Federal Court have uniformly held that there is no serious doubt to the "illegal provenance" of the money, the OSG added.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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