Imelda con­victed for hid­ing mil­lions

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

Imelda Mar­cos was found guilty of cor­rup­tion yes­ter­day and handed a lengthy prison term in a rare con­vic­tion for the for­mer Philip­pine first lady ac­cused with her late dic­ta­tor hus­band of em­bez­zling bil­lions of dol­lars from state cof­fers.

How­ever, it was un­likely 89year-old Mar­cos — whose in­fa­mous shoe col­lec­tion is held in a sub­ur­ban Manila mu­seum — would spend much time be­hind bars as she is al­lowed to ap­peal the rul­ing and can re­main free on bail as long as the con­vic­tion is not fi­nal.

The ver­dict from the anti-graft Sandi­gan­bayan court or­ders her to serve a min­i­mum of six years be­hind bars for each of the seven charges that the Mar­coses fun­nelled roughly $US200 mil­lion through Swiss foun­da­tions decades ago.

This leaves her po­ten­tially fac­ing decades in prison, but the ex­act length of the term was not im­me­di­ately clear.

Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, who along with his cronies was ac­cused of pil­fer­ing $US10 bil­lion from The Philip­pines, fled with his fam­ily to the US af­ter a peo­ple’s up­ris­ing ended his 20-year rule in 1986.

Mar­cos died in 1989 while still in ex­ile, but his heirs later re­turned to Manila and have since staged a po­lit­i­cal come­back. Imelda Mar­cos is a con­gress­woman.

As a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in the Mar­cos ad­min­is­tra­tion, Imelda was barred by law from hav­ing any fi­nan­cial in­ter­est from the Swiss foun­da­tions, said the rul­ing.

“The cou­ple opened all those ac­counts in Switzer­land, and they used pseu­do­nyms to hide their own­er­ship. The pres­i­dent chose Wil­liam Saun­ders and Imelda Mar­cos used Jane Ryan,” spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Ryan Quilala said yes­ter­day.

Her lawyers could not be reached, while a press aide told Agence France-Presse there was no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

Mar­cos crit­ics re­joiced at the news of the con­vic­tion, which came nearly three decades af­ter the case was filed in 1991.

“This points to how long and there­fore frus­trat­ing the Philip­pine ju­di­cial sys­tem is,” said op­po­si­tion MP Fran­cis Pangili­nan. “We hope our courts will see this through … and give no spe­cial treat­ment to Mrs Mar­cos.”

Court of­fi­cials said Mar­cos, who was not at yes­ter­day’s hear- ing, would be able to avoid in­car­cer­a­tion by post­ing an as-yetun­de­ter­mined bail. She has the right to ap­peal her con­vic­tion to the Supreme Court.

The court has pre­vi­ously un­done at least one case against her, over­turn­ing a 24-year jail sen­tence in 1993 on graft charges. She ran for congress and won while her ap­peal was un­der way.

The fam­ily’s no­to­ri­ety stems back to Fer­di­nand Mar­cos dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in 1972.

That al­lowed him to shut­ter the leg­is­la­ture, muz­zle the free press and jail or kill those who dared to op­pose his dic­ta­tor­ship.

In the decades since Mar­cos’s ouster, the ef­fort to re­cover the pil­fered money has been halt­ing and un­even.

How­ever, the Philip­pine Supreme Court in 2003 or­dered $US680m in funds stashed by the Mar­coses in Swiss banks be handed to the gov­ern­ment. The funds had ear­lier been turned over by the Swiss ju­di­ciary af­ter con­clud­ing that the funds were stolen from the Manila gov­ern­ment.

The younger gen­er­a­tions of Mar­coses have led high-pro­file ca­reers, de­spite the dark past as­so­ci­ated with their name.

Imelda and Fer­di­nand’s daugh­ter Imee Mar­cos is the gover­nor of the fam­ily’s north­ern strong­hold of Ilo­cos Norte prov­ince and helped bankroll the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, ac­cord­ing to him. Imelda’s son, also named Fer­di­nand, al­most won the sep­a­rate elec­tion for vice-pres­i­dent that year. He has won the count un­der protest from his op­po­nents and hopes to run for pres­i­dent af­ter Mr Duterte’s term ends in mid-2022.

AP

Imelda Mar­cos last year

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