The Marcos gold bars

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

With the Marcos hidden wealth back in the headlines after Duterte said “they are willing to return the gold bars,” the question is how much. There are different stories about the worth of the Marcos gold bars.  One that keeps coming up is that Marcos found the Yamashita gold. This was Imelda’s defense in the trial in New York. The prosecution presented thousands of documents and hundreds of witnesses to prove this was untrue. They came from elsewhere.  

Rather than go over complex stories of where these may have come from I venture to select only one. It is the more realistic. It has to do with the gold coming from the Central Bank when it issued IPD 602 which ordered all gold producers to sell only to them.

Marcos then opened the Central Bank Gold Refinery and Mint in Quezon City. It is said that this was where the gold could have been minted into international standards of exchange.

According to one Opposition report after the Marcoses left in 1986, the known losses at the Central Bank included $1.2 billion in missing reserves and $6 billion in Special Accounts.

The conservative grand total for losses Marcos left behind (and therefore the kind of loot he grabbed and hid) amounted to $17.1 billion.

A review of the audits will show how much gold the Central Bank declared at the peak of the enforcement of IPD 602 and how much when the Marcoses left. That goes for the other financial institutions like the PNB if there are still records that can be worked on. There was no real audit of a kind that would include Imelda’s spending or Ver’s intelligence fund.

A review made at that time gave no hint of theft or missing money, only “downward adjustments” and “proposed adjustments” to “deficiencies” and “shortages of money.”

When the Marcos party landed in Honolulu, their luggage included 300 crates on board a C-141 cargo jet. It took 25 customs officers five hours to tag the bags and identify the contents. The process was videotaped because of all the money and jewelry found inside.

There were 278 crates of jewelry and art worth an estimated $5 million. Twenty-two crates contained more than P27.7 million in newly minted currency, mostly hundred-peso denominations worth approximately $1,270,000.

There were other certificates of deposit from Philippine banks worth about $1 million, five handguns, 154 videotapes, 17 cassette tapes, and 2,068 pages of documents – all of which were impounded by Customs. The Marcos party was allowed to keep only $300,000 in gold and $150,000 in bearer bonds that they brought in with their personal luggage because they declared them and broke no US customs laws.

But the most interesting were 24 one-kilo gold bars in a Gucci briefcase with a solid gold with the dedication that read, “To Ferdinand Marcos, from Imelda, on the occasion of our 24th Wedding Anniversary.” This hints an obsession with gold as the prized possession of the partnership.

When Marcos departed the Philippines, the losses in the three Central Bank accounts surpassed P122 billion (more than $6 billion). The big bulk of losses was attributed to the RIR account mainly due to two items: forward cover and swap contracts. There was no mention of losses due to CB transactions in gold or foreign exchange.

Did Marcos steal any gold from the CB? The CB always refused to comment. Why? I once met former CB governor Jaime Laya in a party and asked him whether the losses had anything to do with IPD 602.

The LA Times reported that 6.325 metric tons of gold was unaccounted for in the Central Bank. Between 1978, the year Marcos ordered all gold producers to sell only to the CB, and end 1984, the Bureau of Mines reported that 124,234 pounds of gold were refined.

But the CB reported it received only 110,319 pounds during this same period. That left a difference of 13,915 pounds (6.325 metric tons).

The IMF said the Central Bank had overstated its reserves by $264 million in 1981, $823 million in 1982, and $1.2 billion in 1983. Gross reserves had fallen $1.4 billion between June and December 1983. This means the CB now had no usable reserves. It could no longer pay its foreign debt. Bobby Ongpin reported an estimated $2 billion had flown the country in 1984 and $1 billion the year before.

What was the role of the IMF resident representative who, since 1970, had been keeping regular office hours in the CB? The CB paid for the residential mansion of the IMF resident rep and furnished him with a car with uniformed driver. Was the IMF resident rep, who was regularly furnished papers and reports of personnel of departments and offices wittingly or unwittingly a party or accessory to the “falsification” of international reserves?

An Interpol cable stated that three suspicious shipments – one of gold and two of silver – had been made by the Central Bank. Speculation was that the Marcos family was diverting the precious metals to Switzerland to put them in their personal accounts. A bill of lading from one shipment showed that 244 silver bars, weighing 8,202 kilograms, were received by First United Transport on Oct. 11, 1985, and moved to the docks escorted by the Presidential Security Command (Ver).

As for other Marcos hidden wealth the key would be the documents found in Malacanang, some of which I included in my book “The Verdict” about Imelda’s trial in New York.

Jim Burke, security expert from the US Embassy, was tapping on the wooden paneling in Imelda’s abandoned Malacanang bedroom when he heard a hollow sound. It was the walk-in vault.

In the vault were 35 suitcases secured with locks and tape. They contained a treasure trove of documents about Swiss bank accounts, New York real estate, foundations in Vaduz, and some notepaper on which Marcos had practiced his William Saunders signature. They also contained jewelry valued at some $10.5 million.

Duterte said he will appoint a former chief justice, a certified public accountant, and a third official who is not affiliated with any party as negotiators.

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