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Singapore’s highest court on Monday rejected the Philippine government’s appeal for the transfer of US$25 million in assets allegedly belonging to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The Court of Appeal affirmed an earlier ruling by a Singapore High Court judge who said the Philippine government must prove that it owns the bank deposits in the face of competing claims from other parties.
The rival claimants to the money – now held in escrow – include human rights victims of Marcos’s 21-year rule, along with four foundations and a corporation alleged to be Marcos fronts.
Marcos was toppled in a popular revolt in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. He was accused of plundering billions of dollars from his impoverished country, but his family denies the accusation.
The Singapore appeal court said the US$25 million was the remainder of some US$100 million in Marcos funds deposited in Singapore. The rest had been transferred to the Philippine government in 2003.
The Philippine government demanded to be given the remaining money and opposed the rival claims in Singapore’s judicial system by invoking the principle of state immunity in foreign courts.
“The Court of Appeal held that the doctrine of state immunity did not apply to the present case at all since the property in dispute was not in the possession of the sovereign state,” it said in a summary report Monday.
The judgement identified the four foundations also claiming the disputed money as the Maler Foundation, Avertina Foundation, Palmy Foundation and Vibur Foundation. The other claimant is Aguamina Corporation.
More than 500 civil and criminal suits have been filed worldwide against members of Marcos’s family and his estate.
Despite years of hearings and investigations, no Marcos relative has been sent to jail, but human rights victims won a judgement for damages in a Hawaii court, which forms the basis of their claim to the assets in Singapore.