Banco de Oro ordered to turn over Erap’s millions

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE court yesterday ordered Banco de Oro to hand over millions of dollars in kickbacks former President Joseph Estrada collected from illegal gaming rackets.

The special anti-graft court’s sheriff served the writ on the headquarters of Banco de Oro, where the kickbacks were laundered, after it sentenced the 70-year-old movie actor to life in prison last month.

Estrada has since been pardoned by President Gloria Arroyo, but the court said the pardon did not cover the forfeiture of his assets.

Court sheriff Ed Urieta told reporters he had served the “writ of execution” to the bank as the first step in recovering P215 million ($4.9 million) that Estrada deposited.

The court has ruled that the funds were proceeds from payoffs made by operators of the popular but illegal numbers game “jueteng”.

The funds were deposited in the name of a foundation Estrada set up to provide scholarships to children of the Muslim minority but which the court said were instead used to hide his ill-gotten gains.

Urieta said Banco de Oro officials were “very cooperative” and he expected them to send the court the documents necessary to allow it to recover the money.

Estrada was ousted in a military-backed popular revolt in 2001. He was convicted of massive corruption in September and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The court ordered him to forfeit some $87 million of assets.

He initially appealed the decision, stressing his innocence, but subsequently accepted a pardon.

The court has since ordered Urieta to seize some P700 million ($16.14 million) in funds deposited in two accounts that the court said were owned by Estrada. Court sources said Urieta would visit another bank soon.

On Tuesday, Estrada personally blocked court moves to seize his assets, saying he had paid for them when he was still a movie star.

However, there were no representatives of the former president when Urieta visited Banco de Oro.