MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine government has sold a New Jersey mansion seized from former President Ferdinand Marcos for $1 million, government officials said Tuesday.
The officials said the mansion, located in Lawrence Township, N.J., was sold to an unidentified American buyer who first had to prove he was neither directly nor indirectly connected with the former first family.
'It's not a Marcos crony,' said Rafael Fernando, U.S. executive director of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, formed by President Corazon Aquino to Marcos' foreign holdings. 'We wanted to make sure it (the mansion) didn't fall into Marcos hands again.'
Fernando, in Manila to meet with Aquino, said the buyer had placed $100,000 in escrow in the United States as a down payment, and that the $1 million from the sale would be turned over to the Philippine government next month.
The official Philippine News Agency said it was the first time a Marcos property had been sold to recover the former ruler's foreign wealth, which the government claims he obtained by raiding the nation's treasury.
Marcos and his family fled the country on Feb. 25, 1986 after a civilian-backed military uprising swept Aquino to power.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based legal group hired by the government to recover Marcos' U.S. holdings, estimates Marcos owned property worth about $1 billion in the United States and between $5 and $20 billion worldwide.
The news agency said Marcos bought the mansion early in the 1980s to be the home of his daughter Imee while she studied at nearby Princeton University, but a PCGG official in New York said the mansion was bought by a Marcos intermediary in 1975.
A New Jersey superior court judge on Sept. 12, 1986, awarded the house and 13-acre estate, as well as bank accounts and other Marcos-linked liquid assets worth about $470,000, to the Aquino government.
Judge Paul Levy ruled that 'the funds and the property rightfully belong to the Philippine government' because there was 'hard evidence' the assets were purchased for Marcos with money siphoned from the Philippine treasury.
Fernando said the Philippine government had put the New Jersey mansion on the market with an asking price of $875,000, but had received two offers of at least $1 million.
Marcos is believed to have owned two houses in New Jersey, four prime New York City properties worth $316 million -- the Crown building on Fifth Avenue, the Herald Square shopping mall at 34th Street and Broadway and office buildings on Wall Street and Madison Avenue.
A real estate agent who represented Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos told a House of Representatives subcommittee the properties were purchased through two tiers of foreign-based companies to mask their identities and gain tax advantages.
Marcos also allegedly owns a lavish estate on Long Island. A California state senator said the former Philippine ruler owns at least $10 million of real estate in his state.