Binay ‘dummies’ closing accounts since Senate probe

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Court of Appeals (CA) issued a freeze order on 242 bank accounts and investments of Vice President Jejomar Binay, his family, and his alleged dummies, saying it found probable cause these were related to “unlawful activities.”

The CA resolution, copies of which were shared with the media by Binay critic Ernesto Mercado, cited the findings of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) investigation that Binay, his wife Elenita, their son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, and alleged dummies had “large and frequent” bank transactions from 2008 to 2014.

This was the period when the Makati City Hall parking building and Makati Science High School building were constructed. These two projects are the subject of investigations of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate for allegedly being overpriced due to kickbacks.

The freeze order is effective immediately and covers a period of 6 months.

The CA, citing the AMLC report, stressed the urgency of freezing the accounts of Binay and his alleged dummies, saying some were already closed after the Senate started looking into the corruption claims in August 2014.

Both Limlingan and Baloloy started selling securities, conducted inter-account transfers within the same bank, pre-terminated their time deposits and investment placements, encashed checks, and withdrew bank deposits after the commencement of the Senate hearings,” the order said. 

The CA and the AMLC said there is probable cause that the Binays and their dummies violated the anti-graft law, and the anti-money laundering act.

Unless frozen, the funds in the subject accounts will certainly be withdrawn thereby placing these beyond reach/recovery,” the CA said.

This is the first time in recent history that the CA issued a freeze order on the bank accounts of the country's second highest official. The opposition leader, Binay is also the front runner in the 2016 presidential polls. 

The AMLC observed increases in the net worth of said government officials which were not commensurate to their declared incomes, assets, liabilities, and business interests,” stated the CA in a 33-page freeze order dated Monday, May 11.

The court granted the ex-parte petition of the AMLC for a freeze order after the Ombudsman asked the agency to probe possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA). The CA First Division issued the order. 

The AMLC investigation looked into the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of the officials, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records on the alleged dummy companies, Commission on Audit (COA) findings, and testimonies during the Senate probe.

The order also covers the bank accounts, investments, and insurance policies of Binay's alleged dummies, including the following:

While Binay repeatedly denied allegations he used dummies to earn kickbacks from the construction projects, the AMLC found that the supposed dummies maintained bank accounts with Binay, were designated beneficiaries, or conducted multiple high-value investment transactions.

The AMLC observed large and frequent transactions made between the period 2008 to 2014 involving the aforementioned accounts of VP Binay, maintained individually or jointly with either Limlingan or Lily Hernandez Crystal. The AMLC likewise observed that these transactions were not commensurate to the income declared by VP Binay in his SALNs for said years,” the order stated.

The AMLC found that money was transferred to banks outside of the Philippines.

Considerable amounts of US dollars were transferred from Philippine to Canadian banks in the years 2008 to 2014, the period when the subject buildings were constructed. The US dollar transferred originated from accounts held either individually by Limlingan, or jointly by Limlingan and VP Binay at Rizal Banking Commercial Corporation, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, or BDO Unibank, Inc.”

The AMLC, the CA said, also found huge transactions involving the bank accounts of Mayor Binay for the same period.

At least 78 large transactions and five notable transactions involving Mayor Junjun Binay's aforementioned accounts were observed to have been made from 8 April 2003 to 8 January 2015,” the order said.

How did dummies get millions?

The Senate has tried and failed to summon Limlingan and Baloloy to its probe. Rappler reports showed that Limlingan, Binay's “dear friend” and close associate, allegedly monopolized security and janitorial services in Makati. Baloloy is known as the “trusted aide” and “girl Friday” of the Vice President.

Despite the absence of their testimonies, the AMLC found that their bank accounts contained amounts way beyond their income.

Based on the client information recorded by Landbank, Limlingan received an income of P30,000 in 2011 and 2013. Baloloy's source of income is her employment with the Makati city government.

The AMLC's investigation would however disclose that in 2007 to 2014, cash deposits, transactions, majority of which were in millions of pesos, were applied to the individual and joint accounts maintained by Limlingan and Baloloy in BDO, Metrobank and Security Bank,” the CA said.

The court added, “Other large transactions conducted by Limlingan and Baloloy involved funds that apparent have been placed in investment management fund accounts.”

Mercado previously told the Senate that he delivered bags of cash to Mayor Binay, Limlingan, and Baloloy. These funds allegedly represented the 13% share of the Vice President in every project in Makati.

The AMLC investigation also revealed large transactions with other alleged Binay dummies, including Tiu, the billionaire businessman supposedly fronting as the owner of the 145-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas, known as “Hacienda Binay.”

The investigation into the bank accounts of Greenergy, Earthright, and Sunchamp revealed multiple transactions involving receipt of award remittances, inter-branch fund transfers, cash withdrawals and cash deposits among the accounts of these entities, of the SPCMB Law Office and of Tiu from 30 June 2014 to 2 July 2014 alone,” the order said.

The investigation further revealed that despite Tiu's supposed business losses in 2013 and comparatively small net profit of P22.45 million in 2013, the accounts under this name showed multiple large transactions.”

Liberal Party conspiracy?

On Tuesday, May 12, the Binays denied having knowledge of the freeze order, and lamented the disclosure of the court document. It criticized the AMLC for being part of the “conspiracy” to malign Binay.

Binay spokesperson Joey Salgado blamed the ruling Liberal Party (LP) and its president-on-leave Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II for the release of the court order, and the AMLC report.

“This is all about the 2016 presidential election. This is all about unleashing the agencies of government to harass and malign the Vice President in the hope- however dim – that the LP's presumptive candidate will benefit from the demolition campaign.”

Binay's spokesperson for political affairs Rico Quicho branded the release of the court order as a "malicious leakage."

“[This] is another blatant attempt to engage the Vice President in trial by publicity and to deprive him of his right to due process provided by the Constitution. It is also an indirect way to pressure and preempt the independence of the courts, which would eventually decide on the controversy," Quicho said.   

Quicho added Binay will address the accusations in court. Rappler.com