Imee Marcos tied to offshore trust in the Caribbean

Imee Marcos

MARIA IMELDA Marcos Manotoc, the Princeton-educated eldest child of   Ferdinand Marcos and now a senior political figure in her own right, is beneficiary of a secret offshore trust.

The documents indicate that in her role of financial advisor, Imee Marcos had powers to direct the investment of trust assets held by banks and other financial institutions.

The so-called “settlor,” “trust protector,” and “master client” listed in the documents is Mark Chua, a Singapore-based businessman. Imee’s sister-in-law Liza Araneta-Marcos, in newspaper reports published in May 2007, had named Chua as Imee’s boyfriend. The settlor refers to the person who creates the trust by transferring a certain asset that he or she owns to the trustee, who then assumes legal ownership of the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Chua has not replied to PCIJ’s questions on his role in Sintra Trust.

In June 2005, Imee was named investment adviser of the Sintra Trust, according to a document uncovered by PCIJ. As investment adviser, she can direct any financial institution in the purchase, sale, liquidation, and investment of the trust assets. Chua also became an investment advisor for the trust in 2006.

Although the Sintra Trust is located in the British Virgin Islands, another PCGG official said  Portcullis TrustNet is based in Singapore, which has one of the toughest financial secrecy regulations in the world. It ranked No. 6 in the 2011 Financial Secrecy Index of the Tax Justice Network, a London-based group, which campaigns against tax havens.

Despite being formed in 2002, thirteen years after the death of Ferdinand Marcos, Sintra Trust has parallels with the Marcos foundations set up in the early 1970s in Liechtenstein. Then as now, the offshore entities were established in well-known tax havens that guaranteed secrecy. Before, the beneficiaries were the Marcos couple and their children. Now, it is Imee and her children. Both the BVI trust and Liechtenstein foundations were set up with the help of foreign lawyers and other professionals whose job is ensuring the real owners and beneficiaries are well hidden.

Some of the documents that the Marcoses left behind   show that the former president instructed one of his foreign agents, Marcus Geel of Zurich in Switzerland, to set up the Xandy Foundation in Vaduz, Liechtenstein in March 1970. Marcos and Imelda were named first beneficiaries, the surviving spouse the second beneficiary, and the three Marcos children were named as equal third beneficiaries.

A few months later, Marcos instructed his foreign agents to transfer funds from four secret Swiss bank accounts that Marcos and Imelda opened in 1968, just two years after he became president, to the Xandy Foundation. The couple hid their identities, using the names “William Saunders” and “Jane Ryan” when they opened the Swiss bank accounts. Among the documents the Marcoses left behind at the presidential residence were accomplished “declaration/specimen signatures” forms where Ferdinand signed with their real names as well as pseudonyms.