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Marcos cleared in $863 million corruption case

Image: Imelda Marcos
Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, during an emotional news conference in Manila Monday after being cleared of corruption charges.Bullit Marquez / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The flamboyant widow of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was acquitted Monday of 32 counts of illegally transferring wealth abroad during her husband's 20-year rule.

Imelda Marcos was exonerated after a 17-year trial in the case involving millions of dollars stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court said the prosecution presented witnesses who were not directly relevant to the accounts and failed to prove wrongdoing by Marcos beyond a reasonable doubt.

Marcos and two associates were accused of unlawfully opening 11 dollar accounts in Switzerland under the names of foundations linked to the Marcos family to hide alleged ill-gotten wealth, Pampilo said in a telephone interview.

"The prosecution presented inadmissible evidence," he said.

In 2003 the Supreme Court decided in a separate civil case to give the Philippine government the Marcoses' Swiss bank deposits, then valued at about $683 million.

The money -- which totaled $365 million when discovered shortly after Marcos was ousted in 1986 -- had grown with interest, said Commissioner Narciso Nario of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the agency assigned to recover Marcos' alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Forfeiture case continues
Pampilo said the case involved about $863 million, but the current amount of the recovered money could not immediately be verified with Bureau of Treasury officials.

Pampilo also said the forfeiture proceedings against the Marcoses were being separately handled by the anti-graft court called the Sandiganbayan, and that Imelda Marcos was acquitted only on the criminal case.

Of the 901 cases filed against Marcos after her husband's downfall, 10 criminal cases remain with the anti-graft court, her lawyer Robert Sison said.

'Truth will be justice'
After hearing the verdict, a teary-eyed Marcos, in an olive green dress with matching jewelry, patted the backs of her two lawyers and then shook their hands.

"I thank the Lord," she told reporters. "I hope while I'm still alive they will terminate all these cases so I can fulfill my dream for my country and people.

"Truth for the Marcoses will be justice for the Filipino and all," she said, claiming her family had done many positive things for the country.

The wealthy socialite, who turns 79 in July, gained fame for the extensive shoe collection and diamond-encrusted tiaras she left behind when she and her husband fled the country after his 1986 fall from power in a "people power" revolt. They went to Hawaii, where he died in 1989.

The couple denied any wrongdoing.

Imelda Marcos, who later returned to the Philippines and was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1998, still faces a string of cases related to billions of dollars allegedly amassed by her family during her husband's two decades in office.