US court finds Imelda secretary guilty


A one-time secretary to former First Lady Imelda Marcos was found guilty by the New York Supreme Court for plotting to sell a Monet painting which vanished after the 1986 revolution that saw her husband, the former president, ousted.

Sentencing for Vilma Bautista, 75, will be held at a still undisclosed date, officials said.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on Tuesday said it will file a civil case against Bautista after a jury found her guilty of illegally conspiring to hide possession of and selling a valuable work of art acquired by the former first lady during her husband’s presidency.

PCGG chairman Andres Bautista said the Commission will file a civil case against Bautista and her two nephews to ensure the recovery of Claude Monet’s lily painting and other artworks, which are owned by the government.

Bautista also said the PCGG wants to recover bank deposits worth $15 million that allegedly came from the proceeds of the sale of paintings in 2010, an apartment in the United States worth $3.9 million and life insurance amounting to $1 million to $2 million.

Bautista is based in New York and her nephews Pongsak Nava¬laksana and Caheyot Novalak¬sana, are now in Thailand.

“After that, we will file a case to recover the three unsold paintings and the one sold to British businessman Allan Howard,” Bautista said in a press briefing.

A jury in New York State Supreme Court on Monday found Bautista guilty of the criminal tax fraud in the first degree, conspiracy in the fourth degree, and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.

As a result, the PCGG chair lauded the New York State Supreme Court for their speedy resolution of the case.

“The Commission is gratified that the people of New York has seen jus¬tice done today. The Commission pro¬vided key testimonial and documentary evidence for the trial, know-ing how important this was to the Filipino people. We will now be work¬ing to recover the proceeds and assets which were confiscated from Ms. Bautista and which we assert to be owned by the Republic,” Bautista said.

“After 27 years that the Marcoses have fled, crime does not pay. Justice may be slow but it will surely catch up with them. It took them [New York District Attorney’s Office] less than a year to finish the trial. This is the kind of justice system we should emulate,” the PCGG chief added.

In October last year, Bautista and her two nephews were charged of selling artworks that the former first lady acquired during her husband’s presidency. These artworks, said to be worth millions of pesos, include Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphease” and “L’Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil.”

“Bautista was found guilty of attempting to sell art she had possessed secretly for decades and knew to be stolen and for selling a looted museum-quality painting for her personal enrichment,” Manhattan District lawyer Cyrus Vance Jr. said.

She was one of three people accused of illegally conspiring to possess and sell works of art acquired by Marcos and keeping proceeds for themselves, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.

They also sought to hide the gains from the US tax authorities.

The Monet was part of Imelda Marcos’ hoard of artworks and other luxuries accumulated during her strongman-husband’s rule.

The Philippines government moved to recover the property in the aftermath of the 1986 revolution, but much of it vanished.

“A significant amount of artwork and other valuables disappeared from the Philippine government property, including from the Philippine Consulate town¬house in Manhattan,” the DA’s office had said earlier.

Vance said that after waiting 20 years beginning in 2009, Bautista and her two nephews allegedly began trying to sell.

Among the works they sought to profit from were the Monet water lily, “Le Bassin aux Nympheas,” and three other valuable works that the Philippines government was trying to repossess.

They succeeded with the Monet, selling it to a London gallery and dividing the $32 million, with Bautista “keeping the largest share of the money herself,” prosecutors said.

Philippine authorities say that the Marcoses acquired 146 works of art with public money but have not yet been recovered, including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Renoir, Rembrandt and Cezanne.



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