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PCGG to testify in art theft case vs Imelda Marcos' ex-aide in New York.

Byline: Dona Z. Pazzibugan

MANILA -- The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) will testify in the art theft and tax fraud case brought against former first lady Imelda Marcos' former social secretary and confidante in New York.

The PCGG was summoned by the State Supreme Court in Manhattan to testify when the trial of Vilma Bautista starts on October 7.

Ms. Bautista, 74, was arrested and arraigned last November 20 for trying to sell three valuable artworks, including a Monet masterpiece, which the Philippine government had reported to be part of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth that disappeared after the downfall of the Marcos regime in 1986.

PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista, head of the agency tasked to go after the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, revealed the sending of a representative to testify in the trial.

"For sure some people from the PCGG will testify in the trial, might be me," Mr. Bautista said.

"We have been assured by the NYDA (New York District Attorney) they believe these paintings rightfully belong to Filipino people," Mr Bautista said.

The PCGG has been cooperating with the NYDA investigation since mid-2011.

"The position of the PCGG is these paintings are part and parcel of our missing paintings therefore should be returned to the Republic," Mr. Bautista stressed.

The New York District Attorney's Office has charged Ms. Bautista and her nephews Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana, 37, and Pongsak Navalaksana, 40, with illegally conspiring to possess and sell valuable paintings that they did not own, and keeping the proceeds for themselves and hiding them from tax authorities.

Authorities were alerted after Ms. Bautista and her nephews succeeded in selling Monet's well-known "Le Bassin aux Nympheas" (1899) in 2010 for $32 million.

She is accused of trying to sell three valuable works: Monet's "L'Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil" (1881), Alfred Sisley's "Langland Bay" (1887) and Albert Marquet's "Le Cypres de Djenan Sidi Said" (1946) also known as "Algerian View."

These paintings are included in the PCGG's Missing Paintings list, and have been recorded with the Art Loss Register, the world's largest private database of lost and stolen art.

Bautista said the Philippine government would also claim the other assets seized by the New York District Attorney's Office from Mrs. Marcos' former aide.

The other seized assets of Ms. Bautista include over $15 million in a bank account in New York, an apartment in New York worth $3 million to $4 million and a life insurance policy worth $1 million to $2 million.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jun 3, 2013
Words:418
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