Maria Imelda “Imee” Marcos Manotoc, the eldest child of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and now governor of Ilocos Norte, is beneficiary of a secret offshore trust in the Caribbean, a primary way her father allegedly stashed away hidden wealth overseas.
The hardworking and popular local official — widely known as Imee Marcos — is one of the beneficiaries of the Sintra Trust, which financial records uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show was formed in June 2002 in the British Virgin Islands. Other beneficiaries are Imee Marcos’ adult sons with estranged husband Tomas Manotoc: Ferdinand Richard Michael Marcos Manotoc, Matthew Joseph Marcos Manotoc, and Fernando Martin Marcos Manotoc.
Scores of documents, the most recent dated 2010, show that Imee Marcos was also a financial advisor for the Sintra Trust as well as a company in which the Sintra Trust was a beneficial shareholder called ComCentre Corporation, formed in January 2002 in the BVI and still in operation; and a “master client” for the M Trust, formed July 1997 in Labuan, Malaysia, and closed July 2009. Philippine law requires government officials to disclose their assets no matter where they’re held, and Imee Marcos’s disclosure statements do not list the three offshore entities. It is not known what assets they hold, but one Sintra Trust document refers to a bank account with United Overseas Bank Limited, a financial institution headquartered in Singapore. Another record related to ComCentre refers to an account at HSBC.
The Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) is eager to find out if the entities connected to Imee Marcos might contain some of the estimated $5 billion that her father allegedly amassed through corruption. He too held offshore accounts, which the Philippine government has sought to freeze.
Why send stash abroad? Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines with his family and their close associates when a revolution toppled his 21-year rule in February 1986. He had been accused of large-scale human rights violations as well as widespread corruption. After Marcos died in exile in 1989 at age 72, his wife, the flamboyant Imelda Marcos, returned to the Philippines with their three grown children to rebuild political careers and to contest the government’s seizure of their assets and properties.
Though many cases are still in the courts almost 25 years on, the government has scored a few major victories, including a Supreme Court ruling forfeiting to the state $356 million of the Marcos couple’s secret Swiss deposits after declaring the funds to be “ill-gotten.”
Imee Marcos’ role in the offshore entities uncovered by the ICIJ data raises questions on why a public official has need for offshore trusts and corporations in tax havens.