[AML-CFT] Nani probed by Swiss government for money laundering
- The Philippine Star- Overlooked in the news stories about the extortion case of President Arroyo’s first justice secretary Hernando Perez is the fact that the Swiss government investigated him for alleged money laundering.
Investigated with Perez by Swiss Federal Prosecutor Brent Holtkamp were his wife Rosario, who gave their address as 30 Bonifacio Street, Ayala Heights, Quezon City; his brother-in-law Ramon Antonio Castillo Arceo (no address), and his business associate, banker Ernest de Leon Escaler, of 726 Quirino Avenue, Tambo, Parañaque.
On March 17, 2003, the Swiss prosecutor, through the Swiss embassy in Manila, informed the Philippine government of his initial findings on his investigation of the Perezes, Arceo and Escaler for allegedly violating his country’s Anti-Money Laundering Law by transferring a total of $1.7 million to a bank in Switzerland.
Ironically, the Philippines’ own Anti-Money Laundering Council did not investigate the Perezes and their associates.
Holtkamp’s report, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, is the document that links Mrs. Arroyo’s first justice secretary to the $2 million that he is accused of extorting from former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez.
It details the "laundering" and movement of funds with the use of several bank accounts and at least two corporations formed in countries that are known as money havens.
Without the report, the paper and money trail stops with Escaler, in whose account in Coutts Bank in Hong Kong Jimenez transferred the funds from Trade and Commerce Bank in Cayman Islands through Chase Manhattan Bank in New York upon the instruction of Escaler, who, according to Jimenez, fronted for then Secretary Perez. The former Manila congressman made the transfer on Feb. 23, 2001.
The Holtkamp report shows that deposit account 338118 was opened about two weeks later on March 5 in the EFG Private Bank branch in Geneva in the name of Mrs. Perez and Arceo.
Though they were the account holders, the two, however, executed a special power of attorney in favor of then Justice Secretary Perez.
"On March 6, 2001, the account number 338118 did actually receive an amount of US$1 million from the account of Ernest de Leon Escaler at the Coutts (Schweiz) AG Hong Kong," the Swiss prosecutor’s report states.
Later, Mrs. Perez and Arceo opened another account at the EFG Private Bank branch in Guernsey, another city in Switzerland.
Escaler, according to Holtkamp’s investigation, transferred $699,985 to the Guernsey account in May 2001.
"These amounts were then the object of different investments and inter-account movements," the report states.
The Geneva account of Mrs. Perez and Arceo was closed on Oct. 10, 2001.
With its closure, Escaler’s account in the same EFG Private Bank branch, which he opened on March 27, 2001, "received capital in return in several transfers."
"Two important transfers took place from this last account in favor of the company Swordtail Limited, which is the holder of an account with BNP Hong Kong," according to Holtkamp. BNP is a French bank.
"Finally, an amount of US$833,000 from the Swordtail account to the Lucky Clover Enterprises Ltd. account," the prosecutor’s report states.
Lucky Clover was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Deposit account 338372 at the EFG Private Bank branch in Geneva was opened for it "at the request" of Escaler on March 11, 2001, six days after Mrs. Perez and Arceo opened theirs in the same branch.
The Swiss prosecutor’s findings did not indicate who the owners of Swordtail and Lucky Clover are.
Since there is a mutual assistance treaty between the Philippines and Switzerland, Holtkamp wanted to know if the authorities had opened a similar investigation of Perez, his wife, Arceo and Escaler. He also asked that he be informed of the results of their investigation and copies of their evidence, if there was any.
He furnished authorities pertinent portions of his country’s Anti-Money Laundering Law. It is not clear if the government complied with his request.
It was former Bulacan Rep. Willie Buyson Villarama who exposed Perez as the "Million Dollar Man" in Mrs. Arroyo’s Cabinet, and it was The STAR that broke the story.
Jimenez later confirmed in a privilege speech at the House of Representatives that Perez extorted $2 million from him.
Escaler asked the Sandiganbayan Friday to suspend the proceedings on the graft case against him even after his and his co-accused’s arraignment has already been set by the anti-graft court.
Escaler filed a manifestation and urgent motion to suspend court proceedings with the first division of the anti-graft court that is handling the graft case, which stemmed from Jimenez’s allegation of extortion.
He asked the division to set a hearing on May 9 for his lawyers to raise arguments as to why hearings on the graft charges should be suspended.
Court officials, however, believed that it would be unlikely for the division to set the hearing on the date requested by Escaler since hearings of the court would be moved to Cebu.
The first division has already summoned Escaler and Arceo and ordered them to submit their plea on graft charges in the arraignment set on May 16.
The clerk of court clarified that the division has not yet set the arraignment of Perez and wife Rosario – contrary to earlier reports – since it has yet to resolve the couple’s motion to suspend proceedings.
Apart from graft charges, the accused are also facing robbery/extortion charges before the second division while Perez is facing separate charges of falsification of public documents and grave misconduct with the third division.
Perez was charged with falsification of public documents for his failure to disclose his and his wife’s $1.7 million bank account in his 2001 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth. – With Edu Punay
Posted By Inonu Akgun ALP to AML-CFT at 5/03/2008 11:57:00 AM