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Ex-Legacy exec says SEC official took bribes

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 12:52:00 03/09/2009

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) A former official of the Legacy Group, under investigation for allegedly siphoning billions of pesos from its clients through dubious investment schemes, claimed Monday that Securities and Exchange Commissioner (SEC) Jesus Martinez received bribes from Legacy founder Celso de los Angeles.

Caroline Hiñola, former chief executive officer of Legacy Consolidated Plans Inc., told a Senate hearing that Legacy bought a P5-million house and lot in Parañaque for Martinez, who allegedly gave it to his son.

Hiñola showed copies of P3 million worth of vouchers and checks to back her claim against Martinez.

She also said that in November 2007, she handed Martinez P1.475 million as payment for a Ford Expedition De los Angeles was buying from the SEC official.

She said the money came from the Legacy-affiliated Rural Bank of San Jose.

Martinez and De los Angeles, who were at the Senate hearing, denied the allegations.

Martinez said he never owned or sold an Expedition.

The SEC commissioner, however, acknowledged later that his son had sold a P1.4 million sport utility vehicle to De los Angeles, after Jose Nograles, president of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, confirmed that the Legacy owner had purchased the SUV.

As for the house and lot allegedly bought by Legacy for Martinez’s son, Martinez clarified that his son was the one who bought the P5-million property from De los Angeles’ company, which had earlier bought the house and lot from a certain Michael Lirio.
Senator Manuel Roxas II then asked Martinez whether he found “anything wrong … unusual [or] remarkable” about his son doing business with Legacy, which later ended up bankrupt.

Martinez replied that his son was old enough to do business on his own.

“If the Expedition was sold by my son to a rural bank …I don’t know how [that would] affect me. First of all, I had nothing to do with the rural bank. I do not know if this was a favor because no favor was asked of me,” Martinez said.

He added that his son was an old friend of the Legacy owner’s son, Martin Niccolo, and had been renting the Parañaque house and lot before buying it from De los Angeles.

“I don’t know how it will affect me as an SEC commissioner,” he said of the transactions.

Roxas said it was “quite apparent” Martinez was negligent “because these pre-need companies failed under your watch.”

“Clearly there was movement of unauthorized money within LCPI (Legacy Consolidated Plans Inc.) which is something you are supposed to supervise. This is the area you are supposed to supervise,” the senator said.

Another former Legacy executive, Namnama Pasetes-Santos, chief finance officer of the LCPI, told the Senate that De los Angeles spent close to P95 million from his now collapsed business empire to pay for personal expenses — from the wages of house help to birthday parties.

De los Angeles, incumbent mayor of Sto. Domingo town in Albay, also allegedly spent Legacy money for campaign materials in the 2007 elections, as well more than P39 million in travel expenses.

Santos said that in 2006, around P30 million was disbursed to De los Angeles, in cash or through checks made out to his name, and deposited to his personal accounts.

Some P38 million was also disbursed to De los Angeles through checks issued to “his name for election purposes, specifically during the time he was campaigning to be the municipal mayor of Sto. Domingo, Albay,” Santos said, reading a prepared affidavit.

In addition, more than P1 million, all from LCPI, was disbursed for election-related expenses, Santos said.

She also said De los Angeles paid P1.8 million to Parañaque Representative Ed Zialcita as consultancy fee.

In 2008, De los Angeles received P19 million, despite having divested his interest in LCPI and other companies. In the same year, he was also given P3 million for his personal needs.

Senator Manuel Roxas II, chair of the Senate trade committee, showed a copy of an electricity bill De los Angeles’s former wife, which was paid for by Legacy.

De los Angeles said he separated from his wife in 2000.

March 9, 2009 - Posted by | Philippine Newspapers/Web News | , ,

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