US recovers USD1.38-M ‘ill-gotten’ assets of ex-AFP comptroller Garcia

By , on June 3, 2015

Former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia (FILE PHOTO)
Former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia (FILE PHOTO)

MANILA — The United States has recovered US $1.38 million worth of illegally obtained assets stashed in New York by former Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff General Carlos Garcia.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg turned over on Wednesday to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales a check in the amount of USD 1,384,940.28 payable to the Republic of the Philippines, representing the forfeited assets illegally acquired by Garcia, former Armed Forces of the Philippines Comptroller.

The move highlighted the strong cooperation between the Philippines and the US in stemming money laundering and mutual effort against graft and corrupt practices of public officials.

“Battling public corruption is a challenge that all countries face, including the United States. Meeting that challenge is vitally important to ensure public confidence in the honesty and integrity of public servants,” Goldberg said in statement.

Philippine and U.S. investigators have closely worked together to determine that Garcia laundered a substantial portion of his criminal proceeds through the United States.

In particular, investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security traced the criminal proceeds to two Citibank accounts in New York and a condominium in Trump Tower in New York.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York then initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against those assets and eventually obtained default judgments of forfeiture,” a U.S. Embassy statement said.

Net proceeds resulting from the sale of the condominium and the funds from the two Citibank accounts were returned to the Philippines by the United States.

“Since retiring from the Supreme Court to serve as the Ombudsman, Justice Morales has been tireless in the investigation and prosecution of public corruption cases,” Goldberg said. “The United States is very pleased to be able to assist Ombudsman Morales and her office whenever possible.”

In 2003, the sons of Garcia were arrested by US Customs at the San Francisco Airport for failing to declare USD100,000.

U.S. Customs officials subsequently informed then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, who started building up a plunder case against Garcia, who was prosecuted and arrested in 2004 for plunder and perjury.

Garcia and his family are accused of amassing Php303.27 million in ill-gotten wealth while he was in active service. Two of his sons are facing charges in the United States.

Despite the plunder charges, Garcia was freed after posting a Php60,000-bail, which was granted after the former general entered into a plea bargain with the Office of the Ombudsman through the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

Garcia’s counsel agreed to have him change his plea of “not guilty” of plunder and plead “guilty” to indirect bribery and violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act—which led to a lesser sentence covered by time he has already served.

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered his office to review the plea bargain agreement and to study all options for intervention. The Solicitor General has subsequently filed a Motion for Intervention with the Sandiganbayan.