U.S. auditors to examine documents related to Philippines' alleged diverted funds

By ANN SCOTT  |  March 17, 1986
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MANILA, Philippines -- Government auditors today examined documents said to show how deposed ruler Ferdinand Marcos used a telecommunications empire to channel a steady flow of 'crony' wealth out of the country.

A visiting California state senator arrived earlier with papers for President Corazon Aquino's Commission on Good Government that he said would link Marcos to 100 California properties worth 'substantially' more than $100 million.

'I am here to bring information to the government on assets we think were brought to California by Marcos or Marcos cronies, and to offer advice on legal strategies for the possible recovery of those assets,' said Sen. Paul Carpenter.

Good Government Commission sources said an investigation of firms controlling the backbone of the country's communications industry produced new evidence of how millions of dollars were spirited out of the country by close Marcos associates.

Government auditors began poring through the records of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and four other telecommunications firms, all of them raided Friday and Saturday and placed under control of the commission.

Sources speaking on condition they remain anonymous said Marcos associates Roberto S. Benedicto and former Ambassador to Spain Manuel H. Nieto were the principal owners of four of the firms, including the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp., or Philcomsat.

Marcos' son, Ferdinand 'Bong Bong' Marcos Jr., 27, had been chairman of the board of Philcomsat since early 1985. He had been drawing a monthly salary of between $9,700 and $97,000 but rarely visited the office and apparently had no duties there, the sources said.

The government sold its share of Philcomsat to a holding firm controlled by Benedicto in 1982, the sources said, despite the fact it was a lucrative money earner for the government as the sole agent for the nation's link with the global satellite network Intelsat.

Investigators have found the firms funneled millions of dollars out of the country in a 'steady flow,' and sources estimated that in 10 to 15 years the amount totaled 'tens of millions of dollars.'

They said it appeared some of the money was stashed in tax havens and blind trusts unrelated to official company business.

Papers found in a desk at the headquarters of one of the firms documented the ownership of 40 acres in Texas worth $1.3 million, the sources said.

One source said the transactions were 'questionable' and that documents were producing an 'iron-clad' case of wrongdoings.

Carpenter said earlier the documents he brought from California contain evidence of millions of dollars of assets linked to Marcos, including titles to three properties in the name of Marcos' sister, Fortuna M. Barba, and others belonging to Marcos associates.

At least 37 parcels of choice property in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, worth about $11 million, are among the properties, including several lots in Beverly Hills and a 30-room mansion in Pasadena said to be owned by Dovie Beams, who claims to be a former lover of Marcos.

'Our suspicion is that the assets are worth substantially over $100 million,' Carpenter said. He said the properties include 'much real estate and, of course, some banking property' throughout California.

Carpenter said he will meet with President Corazon Aquino later this week and pledge his full cooperation in efforts to recover up to $10 billion in hidden wealth Marcos and his friends are said to have accumulated during his 20-year administration.

Carpenter, who is chairman of the California Senate's Select Committee on Pacific Rim Affairs, said he will also convey to Aquino the willingness of California banks to provide her debt-ridden government with 'soft' credit for manufacturing and other projects.

In a related development, the Manila Times newspaper today said it has documents revealing residences in California and Virginia acquired by close relatives of Marcos' wife, Imelda, worth several million dollars.

It said one of the major property owners listed is Margarita Romualdez-Licaros, said to be a favorite niece of Imelda. The documents show that Romualdez-Licaros and her husband own five California homes worth $3 million to $5 million.

Carpenter arrived in Manila Saturday and is to depart Wednesday.

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