The United States on Wednesday returned to the Philippines more than $1.3 million in proceeds of the forfeited assets of former military comptroller retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.
US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg on Wednesday turned over a US Treasury check in the amount of $1,384,940.28 (P61 million) to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
“This milestone in asset recovery sends the message across that raiders of public coffers can no longer hide their unexplained wealth; they cannot hide their dummy bank accounts, wherever located; and they cannot hide from the long arm of the law,” Morales said.
The money came from the sale of a condominium unit at The Trump Tower in New York and the funds from two Citibank accounts in New York.
“Let this serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that they can launder and not pay its consequences. That money will be looked after, sought, and returned to its rightful place,” Goldberg said.
In January 2012, the US also turned over $100,000 representing cash seized by Customs authorities from Garcia’s two sons upon their entry to California in December 2003.
The Office of the Ombudsman described the recovery of the assets as “another victory” for the Philippine government.
Morales thanked the US government for its vigilant effort in recovering the subject assets.
“Indeed there should be no safe heaven for plunderers and money launderers across the globe,” she said.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed perjury, money laundering and plunder charges against Garcia. He was eventually convicted of perjury by the Sandiganbayan.
In the last two criminal cases, Garcia pleaded to the lesser offenses of indirect bribery and facilitating money laundering as part of a plea bargaining agreement entered into with former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Under the deal, Garcia will return P135 million of the P303 million he was accused of amassing while in active service in exchange for the reduction of the case to bribery.
The plea bargain is being reviewed by the Supreme Court
A statement from the US Embassy in Manila said an investigation conducted by its Department of Homeland Security led them to two Citibank accounts in New York and a condominium at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York then initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against those assets and eventually obtained default judgments of forfeiture.
“Battling public corruption is a challenge that all countries face, including the United States. Meeting that challenge is vitally important to ensure public confidence in the honesty and integrity of public servants,” Goldberg said a statement.