Swiss franc (photo, ©2011 Ellen Wallace)

MANILA — Former Ambassador Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez and his wife Juliette Gomez-Romualdez are facing a forfeiture case before the Sandiganbayan in connection with their Swiss bank deposits of $5.19 million now held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank (PNB).

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case last August 17 nearly five years after Assistant Ombudsman Pelagio S. Apostol had approved a Nov. 22, 2006 resolution that recommended the filing of the case with the Sandiganbayan.

Acting Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro approved last June 11 the filing of the case a few days before Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was appointed.

The case was based on a 2003 complaint of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCCG) that the younger brother of former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos had a total net worth of only P2,348,495.22 in his 1983 statement of assets and liabilities.

PCGG investigators traced the couple’s bank deposits on Dec. 29, 1998 after Zurich (Switzerland) District Attorney Peter Cosandey ordered the release of all “assets, bonds, and other financial instruments” in the name of Romualdez to the Philippine government

The couple had two deposits at UBS-Geneva, account no. CO-920 .310.0 containing $4,528.71 as of Dec. 31, 1998; and (Invested Trust) Account No. CO-920.310.1 holding funds amounting to $4,498,000.00 and maturing on Jan. 21, 1999 at an interest rate of 4.621 percent.

Monies in the accounts originated from Standard Chartered Bank-Zurich account no. 7676, which was opened on Aug. 3, 1983 with an initial deposit of $2 million transferred from the Philippine branch of Standard Chartered.

Then PNB vice president and trust officer Jose V. Ferro confirmed on June 29, 1999 having received the Swiss funds in the amount of $4,613,020.76 in the name of the spouses Romualdez.

The money was then placed in escrow pending final determination of ownership by a local court.

“A comparison of respondent Benjamin Romualdez’s reported net worth in 1983 of P2,348,495.22 with the $2,000,000.00 initial deposit in SA 7676 will show the huge disparity between his lawful income and the secret Swiss bank accounts which he opened during his incumbency as public officer,” the PCGG stated in its 23-page resolution.

Government lawyers noted that Romualdez had held various positions, including ambassador extraordinary and
plenipotentiary to Peking (China), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Washington, D.C. (United States), as well as governor of Leyte Province. (GMA News)


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