Philippines to probe 'secret' Marcos offshore trust

A Philippine government body said Thursday it would investigate an allegation that the eldest daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was the beneficiary of a secret offshore trust.

A report published by the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism alleged Imee Marcos, 57, now a provincial governor, had failed to declare the trust in the British Virgin Islands as legally required.

Andres Bautista, head of a presidential body tasked with recovering the billions of dollars the Marcos family stole during his 20-year rule, told AFP his office would look into the allegations.

"We are duty bound to investigate and, depending upon informed preliminary findings, decide whether to pursue the matter," Bautista said.

An army-backed popular uprising topped Marcos in 1986 and he died in US exile three years later. His famously extravagant wife, Imelda, has always denied she and her husband were corrupt.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government, which Bautista heads, has recovered $4 billion in assets that the Marcoses illegally acquired, including money from Swiss bank accounts and US properties.

But Bautista told AFP in January that, with Imee, Imelda and Ferdinand Jr having re-established political influence in the Philippines, the commission was considering giving up the chase for billions more believed to be hidden.

"It's been 26 years and people you are after are back in power. At some point, you just have to say, 'We've done our best', and that's that. It is really difficult," he said at the time.

The Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said the work looking into the Marcos trust was a collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which includes major foreign media groups.

It said the research had uncovered "scores of documents" showing Imee Marcos was a financial adviser for, and beneficiary of, the secret trust although it was not known what assets it held.

Interviewed on ABS-CBN television Thursday, Imee Marcos referred enquiries to her lawyers. "Let's leave that aside for now and let the lawyers take care of it," she said curtly.

Calls by AFP to Imee Marcos's office went unanswered earlier Thursday. The PCIJ said she had failed to respond to its requests for comment.

Imee Marcos is running unopposed in next month's mid-term elections for a second term as governor of Ilocos Norte province, which was her father's political stronghold.

Imelda Marcos is likely to retain her seat in Congress representing a district in the province. Ferdinand Jr, a senator, is widely expected to run for president in 2016.

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