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Philippines government gets Marcos millions

Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos had claimed the money was for her family Keystone

Some $650 million (SFr890 million) in frozen Swiss bank deposits of the late Philippines dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, is to be handed over to the government in Manila.

This content was published on July 15, 2003 - 16:53

The Philippines Supreme Court ruled that the Marcos family could not prove they had obtained the money lawfully.

“In the face of undeniable circumstances and the avalanche of documentary evidence against them, respondent Marcoses failed to justify the lawful nature of their acquisition of the said assets,” the court said in its ruling.

“The Swiss deposits should be considered ill-gotten wealth and forfeited in favour of the state.”

The Manila government welcomed the decision.

The Zurich prosecutor’s office said the decision would be examined by the justice ministry in Bern.

In 1999 a Swiss court transferred around $570 million in frozen Marcos deposits to the Philippines National Bank, which held it in an escrow account pending a final decision.

The Swiss accounts were worth about $356 million when they were discovered after the end of Marcos’s rule and grew with interest.

Landmark ruling

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the ruling was “a milestone in the people’s decades-long pursuit of justice”.

Arroyo said the ruling was a positive development for millions of landless farmers, who could benefit from the decision as much of the funds are to be used for land reform.

She said the decision would also give a boost to pending legislation on allocating part of the funds to victims of human rights abuses under Marcos’s rule.

About 10,000 people have claimed funds as compensation for human rights violations they suffered under the dictatorship.

An anti-graft court had already ruled in 2000 in favour of transferring the funds to the government on the grounds that the money exceeded the legal income of Marcos and his wife, Imelda, during his presidency from 1966 to 1986.

But the court reversed its decision last year, claiming that the government had failed to supply authenticated copies of a Swiss court ruling that the funds were the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

The Swiss accounts make up the largest amount recovered from the billions of dollars of wealth amassed by Marcos while he was in power, and were valued at $658.2 million early last year.

Marcos was ousted by a popular revolt in 1986 and died three years later in exile.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Ferdinand Marcos served as Philippines president from 1966 to 1986, when he was overthrown.

He fled to Hawaii where he died three years later.

The Philippines government alleges that the Marcos family plundered up to $10 billion from the nation's economy.

The Marcos family is accused of setting up fake foundations and using the Swiss banking system to cover up their activities.

Following a Swiss court ruling, Switzerland transferred $570 million of frozen Marcos funds to the Philippines National Bank in 1999.

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