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PCGG forms probe team on offshore trust funds

MANILA, Philippines - The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has formed a team to look into the alleged secret offshore trust funds of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.

The move came following the publication of a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – which includes the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) – showing Marcos as one of the beneficiaries of Sintra Trust formed in June 2002 in the British Virgin Islands.

Marcos, the eldest child of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, did not declare the Sintra Trust and two other offshore accounts in her latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) in an apparent violation of Philippine laws, the report said.

Asked to comment on the ICIJ report, Marcos said she is “in the process of getting in touch with our lawyers and after that I will be ready with an answer.”

Her brother, Ferdinand Jr., said he would wait for the release of Part 2 of the report before making a comment.

The second part of the ICIJ report also named Sen. Manuel Villar and San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito as owners of companies in the British Virgin Islands.

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“We are duty bound to investigate and depending upon informed preliminary findings, decide whether to pursue the matter,” PCGG chairman Andres Bautista said in a statement.

Created by the first Aquino administration in 1986 after the people power revolution, the PCGG is tasked to recover billions of dollars stolen by the Marcoses during the 20-year rule of the late strongman.

Bautista said they learned about the Sintra Trust a few weeks ago after meeting with PCIJ members.

Based on the report, other beneficiaries of the trust funds are Marcos’s adult sons with estranged husband Tomas Manotoc: Ferdinand Richard Michael Marcos Manotoc, Matthew Joseph Marcos Manotoc, and Fernando Martin Marcos Manotoc.

The ICIJ said “scores of documents” showed that the 57 year-old Marcos was also a financial advisor to Sintra Trust.

As a financial advisor, Marcos had the power to make investment decisions on trust assets held by banks and other financial institutions, the ICIJ report said.

Marcos is seeking reelection unopposed in next month’s midterm polls. The PCGG has recovered $4 billion in Marcos ill-gotten wealth, including Swiss bank accounts and US properties.

‘Nothing sinister’

Meanwhile, Villar said there is “nothing sinister” about his family’s investment holding firm’s owning a shell company in the British Virgin Islands.

“While having a BVI company may be abused by some, there is actually nothing sinister about owning one, especially this company that was never used and has a capital of only a single dollar. This is being done by big companies worldwide,” Villar said, referring to Awesome Dragon Holdings Limited mentioned in the ICIJ report as his.

With Christina Mendez, Teddy Molina

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