SCMP Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Marcos millions 'destined for victims'

FRANK LONGID in Manila


Imelda Marcos signed a deal with bounty hunters to uncover Marcos money in Hong Kong and mainland banks so she could give it to victims of her late husband's regime, the former Philippine first lady's lawyer said yesterday.

Rafael Ramos said an agreement had been reached last December which would have given the bounty hunters 35 per cent of any money they recovered.

But he said the agreement was later terminated.

Mr Ramos said Mrs Marcos entered into the deal because she needed funds to pay a settlement agreement with victims whose rights were abused by late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

About 10,000 such victims won a US$1.9 billion (US$2.7 billion including interest) class suit against the Marcoses in 1992 in a court in the United States.

The amount has been reduced to US$150 million due to a settlement between the judge and one of the victims' lawyers. Some victims have already said they reject the settlement.

At the presidential palace, Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora said the Government had monitored the Marcos money in Hong Kong and China, but expressed reservations the deposits would approach the reported HK$20 billion.

Members of Congress called on the Government to recover the Marcos deposits. Congresswoman Loretta Ann Rosales said officials should "fully co-operate" with the Hong Kong courts to determine how much money Mrs Marcos has in the SAR.

And Congressman Heherson Alvarez said the arrest of the alleged bounty hunters proved the Philippine Government had done little to recover the so-called Marcos hidden wealth.

It is believed the Marcoses amassed over US$10 billion in "ill-gotten wealth" from 1965 to 1986, when they were driven out of the country by the people-power revolt.

Ms Rosales also said the Philippine Commission on Good Government, an agency tasked with recovering the Marcos loot, should send representatives to monitor the progress of the court proceedings in Hong Kong.

Four people appeared in Eastern Court last Friday charged with plotting to bribe senior HSBC employees in March this year to gain access to some of the Marcos loot. They were granted bail.