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Sandiganbayan: Imelda Marcos used Swiss foundations for personal benefit

The evidence showed former First Lady and incumbent Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos established seven foundations in Switzerland only to benefit her family, the Sandiganbayan said on the 26-year-old case of the family matriarch.

The Fifth Division said the foundations -- Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Vibur Foundation, Aguamina Foundation, and Avertina Foundation -- were specifically created to serve as benefactors for its lone recipient, the Marcos family.

"Though named as a 'foundation,' the evidence shows that these entities were put up primarily for the entrepreneurial activity of opening bank accounts and deposits, transferring funds, earning interests and even profit from investment, for the private benefit of the Marcos family as beneficiaries," a portion of the 70-page decision read.

The Sandiganbayan found the 89-year-old Marcos guilty for seven counts of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Corrupt Practices Act on Friday, with subsidiary imprisonment of six to 11 years for each charge. 

The accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office was also meted against Marcos, who was absent during the promulgation.

Marcos allegedly had pecuniary interests and participation in the management of several non-government organizations in Switzerland from 1978 to 1984 during her time as Minister of Human Settlements, Metro Manila Governor, and interim member of the Batasan Pambansa.

Marcos, the widow of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, was prohibited under the law to participate in such businesses.

Assistant Special Prosecutor Ryan Quilala told reporters that the estimated funds the Marcoses allegedly funneled to these foundations were around $200 million.

The prosecution banked on the testimony of the late Solicitor General Frank Chavez, whose remarks were mentioned in the Sandiganbayan decision.

Chavez had said the Marcoses "clandestinely stashed away the country's wealth to Switzerland and had the same under layers upon layers of foundations and other corporate entities to prevent its detection using dummies and agents, opened and maintained bank accounts."

The Sandiganbayan noted the camp of Marcos never presented any contrary evidence in her case, aside from filing a memorandum, or a summary of her final arguments.

She claimed the foundations were not classified as business entities, and therefore, she should not be held liable for the crime.

However, the Sandiganbayan said Marcos actively oversaw the creation of the foundations for her private gain and benefit despite prohibitions under the law.

"Mrs. Marcos participated in the management thereof, by exercising control over their assets and the disposal thereof, appointing the persons to represent these foundations, transmitting instructions, and ratifying the decisions and circumstances of these persons, all geared towards a particular objective," the Sandiganbayan said.

Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Manalac penned the decision, with the concurrence of division chairperson Associate Justice Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.


Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan cleared Marcos on three counts of graft in connection with the management of local corporation Asian Reliability Company Inc. (ARCI) and Dynetics; her alleged role in the $25-million loan secured by ARCI from the Central Bank of the Philippines; and the opening of a multi-million-dollar bank account at Banque Paribas.

The Sandiganbayan said Marcos was not sufficiently charged over her supposed financial interest with ARCI and Dynetics.

It, meanwhile, said there was not enough evidence to find her guilty in the case involving the $25-million loan of ARCI and Dynetics with the Central Bank of the Philippines and the opening of the bank account.

The Sandiganbayan said Marcos only had financial ties with these two cases since she is the husband of the the late dictator.

"A review of evidence points not to Ms. Marcos, but to her husband Mr. Marcos, who personally participated in the management, control and direction of the affairs of Arci," the Sandiganbayan said.

"The evidence is inadequate to prove the active participation of Ms. Marcos in the management of the subject foundations, or intervention in any matter before the government for her pecuniary benefit," it added.

Marcos has a pending civil case for the forfeiture of the Swiss assets. — LDF, GMA News