Ex-Imelda Marcos aide on trial in NYC for selling Monet work

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STOLEN, SOLD Claude Monet’s “L’ Eglise de Vetheuil,” shown here in a photo supplied by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York, was sold for $32 million by former Imelda Marcos’ social secretary, Vilma Bautista. The buyer said he bought the stolen artwork “in good faith” and has agreed to a $10-million settlement with the counsel of martial law victims. Photo taken from PCGG website, pccg.gov.ph

NEW YORK—A debt-ridden onetime aide to Imelda Marcos wrongly sold a hidden treasure: a $32 million Monet painting the former Philippine first lady had acquired and her country wants back, prosecutors said Wednesday as the ex-assistant’s conspiracy trial opened.

In a New York courtroom, Vilma Bautista is facing charges that invoke the tangled history of Philippine officials’ efforts to reclaim items from Marcos and her late husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Bautista is accused of scheming to sell the artwork—part of the French Impressionist’s famed “Water Lilies” series—and trying to peddle other valuable paintings that prosecutors say she had no right to sell. The artwork vanished amid Ferdinand Marcos’ 1986 ouster, ended up in Bautista’s hands and is part of a multibillion-dollar roster of property the Philippines claims the Marcoses acquired with the nation’s cash, prosecutors said.

But for all the art-world intricacies and Philippine politics, “at bottom, this case is really quite simple—it’s about greed and fraud,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Garrett Lynch told jurors in an opening statement.

The defense said Bautista believed that Imelda Marcos rightfully owned the paintings and that Bautista had authority to sell them for her. Bautista is just an intermediary who got caught up in a decades-long dispute between a nation and its former leader, attorney Susan Hoffinger said.

“That battle doesn’t belong here” in a Manhattan criminal courtroom, Hoffinger said in her opening.

After ruling the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades, Ferdinand Marcos was forced by a “people power” revolt into exile in Hawaii. He died three years later.

Philippine officials say Marcos and his associates looted the country’s treasury to amass between $5 billion and $10 billion. The nation’s Presidential Commission on Good Government has seized a number of companies, bank accounts and other assets suspected of being part of that wealth. The Marcoses denied their wealth was ill-gotten.

Unscathed

With a massive collection of shoes, Imelda Marcos became a symbol of excess. But she has emerged relatively unscathed from hundreds of legal cases against her and her late husband, and she is now a congresswoman in the Philippines.

She’s not expected to testify at Bautista’s trial.

Bautista was a foreign service officer assigned to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and later served as Imelda Marcos’ New York-based personal secretary.

By 2009, Bautista was deep in debt. She began looking to sell four paintings the Marcoses had acquired during the presidency—including Monet’s 1899 “Le Bassin aux Nymphease,” also known as “Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny,” prosecutors said.

Bautista ultimately sold the water lily painting for $32 million to a Swiss buyer, Lynch said. Some proceeds went to Bautista’s relatives and associates and to debts; $15 million stayed in her bank accounts, while Imelda Marcos knew nothing of the sale, the prosecutor said.

Bautista had a 1991 “certificate of authority” from Marcos to sell the painting and receive the proceeds, the defense emphasized; prosecutors question its legitimacy. At the time, the work was not on the Philippines’ list of allegedly missing paintings, though the government now seeks its return.

Bautista’s lawyer said the aide sold the painting for Marcos but never had a chance to give her the money.—Jennifer Peltz with David Thurber in Bangkok

 

RELATED STORY:

PCGG: Gov’t, not Marcos victims, owns Monet painting

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  • marcos_hitler_diktador_tuta

    Imelda went unscathed because she bribed her way out of these litigations. Only those litigations overseas prospered because she cannot buy the American prosecutors.

  • denzel_alfonso

    Lahi ng magnanakaw yan!

  • Hey_Dudes

    Yes Judge, It is nothing but simply – greed Filipino style.

  • walaywalay

    1,,THE RP CAN ONLY SEEK LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOR THE ITEMS ON THE LIST
    2,,THE RP NEVER LEGALLY AMENDED THE LIST
    3,,,IMELDA CAN BE LEGALLY DIRECTED BY THE COURT TO SUBMIT A HANDWRITTEN SIGNATURE FOR ANALYSIS
    4..THE WORLD CONTINUES TO LAUGH AT THE RP WHICH ELECTS CONVICTED PLUNDERS AND WIVES OF PLUNDERERS TSK TSK IS THIS THE BEST THE RP CAN PRODUCE?

    • denzel_alfonso

      You forgot to mention the children.

  • akramgolteb

    US$5-10B?????? Mali ata ito ah? Paano maipapaliwanag ang US$13B TT transaction ni Aimee Marcos mula sa German Swiss bank papunta sa ibang bansang branch ng Swiss bank? Hindi masikmura ng bank manager na kausap nila ang lahat ng ito kaya binuko niya. CCTV record ng transaction at authentic copy ng TT form na pinirmahan ni Aimee prinisenta sa korte ng Germany.

    • talagangpinoy

      Part of the reason swiss banks discloses because they dont want to give back the money. Until now they keeping it. Same with other bank notes on the Gold issued by Swiss banks and fedreal banks on the 30’s to 50’s.

  • Fred Cua

    Mabuti pa yung proceeds inambag na lang ni Vilma sa US Government para mabayran amg utang nila sa China

  • mandarambobong marcos

    Di kami magnanakaw hehe joke joke joke

  • Lolo_Basyong

    “Bautista’s lawyer said the aide sold the painting for Marcos but never had a chance to give her the money.”

    Baka nga naman. Pero ngayong nabuking na, ide-deny na yan. You’re on your own, hija. Hehehehehehehehehe…

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