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P1 billion Erap assets discovered

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P1 billion Erap assets discovered
« on: January 11, 2008, 11:24:17 AM »
Friday, January 11, 2008
P1 billion Erap assets discovered

MANILA -- The anti-graft court have found over P1 billion worth of suspected assets of pardoned former President Joseph Estrada placed in a trust account with Equitable PCI Bank, which is now known as Banco de Oro-EPCI, Inc.

The money is being eyed for forfeiture in favor of the government for allegedly being part of the ill-gotten wealth of Estrada, who in September last year was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan Special Division.

In an update report he submitted to the Special Division last Thursday, Chief Sheriff Edgardo Urieta said the amount was found intact at the bank under IMA (Investment Management Agreement) Trust Account No. 101-78056-1.

The amount covers P500 million listed under "promissory note and chattel mortgage;" 450 million shares of Waterfront Philippines with an estimated value of P427.5 million (at today's P0.95 per share); 300 million shares of Wellex Industries worth some P84 million (at today's P0.28 per share); and cash deposits in a common trust fund investment account containing P95.76 million, which will mature on July 25 this year.

The trust account is traceable to the infamous Jose Velarde account, although Urieta failed to state it in his report.

Urieta attached to the report the December 14, 2007 letter of lawyer Gerardo Banzon, head of Banco de Oro's legal advisory and research department, confirming that the stock investments and trust deposits remain intact as of that date.

Banzon said nobody has been able to touch the assets because of a "constructive distraint order" imposed by then Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) deputy commissioner now Commissioner Lilian Hefti dating back to January 29, 2001.

A distraint order is slapped on certain properties as a safeguard to ensure recovery by or indemnification of an aggrieved party.

Hefti's order was addressed to the then president of the Equitable-PCI Bank, a copy of which was attached by Urieta to his report.

In her 2001 order, Hefti specifically identified that properties to be covered by the order are assets of "Joseph Ejercito Estrada a.k.a. Jose Velarde and Kelvin Garcia".

Hefti explained that the order was issued "to protect the interest of the government and to prevent them (Estrada family) from dissipating or conveying their properties without authority from this Office (BIR)."

Urieta's office continues to search for Estrada's properties that may be levied to satisfy the Sandiganbayan's forfeiture ruling, which was not covered by the executive clemency granted to the convicted leader by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Among the properties that were ordered forfeited in favor of the government include the P545.3 million that Estrada received as kickbacks from jueteng operations, the P189.7 million representing the commission that he got from the purchase of Belle Corp. shares by two government pension funds, and the house and lot dubbed "Boracay Mansion" in New Manila, Quezon City.

In its September 12, 2007 decision, the Sandiganbayan held that Estrada was the beneficial owner of the Jose Velarde account although the former President maintains that the real owner is businessman Jaime Dichavez.

However, the anti-graft court said the prosecution failed to show that the entire P3.22 billion once deposited in the Velarde account were all "ill-gotten" as only P545.3 million was supported by evidence to have come from jueteng payola. (Sunnex)

For more Philippine news, visit Sun.Star Davao.

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