A Manila court Monday acquitted the flamboyant widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos of 32 counts of illegally transferring wealth abroad during her husband's 20-year rule.
The decision by Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court comes after a 17-year trial in the case, involving some US$863 million (euro560 million) in Swiss bank accounts. Pampilo said the prosecution presented witnesses that were not directly relevant to the accounts, and failed to prove wrongdoing by Marcos beyond a reasonable doubt.
Marcos and two associates were accused of unlawfully opening 11 dollar accounts in Switzerland under the names of 10 foundations linked to the Marcos family to hide alleged ill-gotten wealth, Pampilo said in a telephone interview.
"The prosecution presented inadmissible evidence," he added. The money has been frozen by the government and is being held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank.
Pampilo said the forfeiture proceedings for the funds are separate and being handled by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, and that Marcos was acquitted only on the criminal case. The wealthy socialite, 79, gained fame for the extensive shoe collection and diamond- encrusted tiaras she left behind when she and her husband fled the country after his 1986 fall from power. Marcos, who later returned and was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1998, faces a string of criminal and civil cases related to billions of dollars (euros) allegedly amassed by her family during her husband's two decades in office. The couple had denied any wrongdoing.
A "people power" revolt ousted Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986, forcing him and his family to flee to Hawaii, where he died in exile in 1989.