PH gov't one of many claimants to Imelda Marcos paintings

NEW YORK, USA – At least 3 entities have competing claims over Claude Monet’s water lily painting, believed to be owned by former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and the proceeds from its sale to a London gallery.

There could be more, according to the District Attorney of New York (DA) in court documents obtained by The FilAm.

The DA seized Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nympheas” (1899) after Imelda’s former secretary, Vilma Bautista, offered it to a London gallery for US$32 million in an unauthorized sale. Bautista faces up to 6 years in prison for conspiracy and tax fraud charges.

Thousands of human rights victims have promptly filed a claim over the proceeds, reasoning the amount should go toward restitution of victims of torture, summary execution and disappearance during the 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

In a November 21, 2013 letter, the Philippine government served notice to the DA that it would like to “have the property returned to it.”

“The Philippines requested that the District Attorney turn the property over to a lawful representative of the Philippines or its Presidential Commission on Good Government,” according to a motion filed by lawyer June Buch, the assistant corporate counsel in the office of Zachary Carter, who is representing District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

The motion was received by the Supreme Court of the State of New York on April 24, 2014. The Philippine government maintained that the money used to buy all these paintings were ill-gotten wealth acquired by Ferdinand Marcos during his presidency and therefore subject to confiscation.

In a February 10, 2014 statement, Carter told the court the human rights victims and the Philippine government are not the only entities interested in the seized property.

More parties may potentially assert their claims, which included Vilma Bautista and her sisters; artist Jorge Ramos, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and Imelda Marcos herself.

He said Ramos, an artist and friend of Bautista, is claiming to be the owner of 8 of the paintings taken from Bautista’s residences.

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila may also claim ownership of the painting “Algerian View” by the French artist Albert Marquet, said Carter.

As for the DA, he said his office is an “innocent stakeholder” in this case. He said the DA is holding on to the property as evidence in the criminal case against Bautista and is not interested in owning them.

Some of the property in the possession of the DA, according to court papers, are:

• 10 paintings
• a Serafian Isfahan rug
• Over $250,000 in cash seized from the residence of Bautista’s sisters Ester Navalaksana, Leonor Hernandez and Aids Hernandez
• 14 items of jewelry
• 42 paintings and a rug seized from Bautista’s Long Island residence
• Approximately $13,654,349.32 from bank accounts in Bautista’s name
• $1,270,000.00 from an account jointly controlled by Bautista and Leonor Hernandez
• 2 paintings surrendered by Bautista’s attorneys

The DA also has custody of 6 life insurance or annuity accounts in Bautista’s name with a total value of $1,429,158.

The DA said it has retained the facilities of Christie’s to store the paintings and other large items. The cash are kept in the DA’s escrow account. It proposed to transfer all the seized property to the Clerk of the Court to the Southern District of New York for safekeeping. – Rappler.com

This article was first published in the news website The FilAm. Rappler was granted permission by the author to republish it.