MANILA Dec 8 A lawyer for billionaire
Philippine tycoon Roberto "Bobby" Ongpin said on Saturday a
court-mandated freeze on about 100 bank accounts linked to him
was part of government moves to persecute him for his close
links to the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal
The Court of Appeals, in an order dated Dec. 6, ordered the
freeze on bank accounts related to Ongpin and his associates
after state and Senate probes showed he received "behest loans",
or loans obtained under preferential terms, from state
Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), according to court
documents obtained by Reuters.
Ongpin's legal counsel, Rodolfo Ma. Ponferrada, said in a
statement there was no reason to freeze the bank accounts
because there was nothing the government was seeking to recover.
Ongpin had fully paid the loans from DBP of around 660 million
pesos ($16 million) with interest well before maturity, he said.
The freeze order was "just the latest salvo in a continuing
pattern of prosecution against his client because of his close
association with the former First Gentleman, Atty. Mike Arroyo,"
Ponferrada said, adding the order was based on "inaccuracies
and wrong information".
The freeze, requested by the government's Anti-Money
Laundering Council, can be extended by up to six months and
involves accounts with 20 banks and financial institutions,
including top local banks BDO Unibank Inc, Metropolitan
Bank & Trust Co, Bank of the Philippine Islands
and local units of foreign banks Citibank N.A.
The order by the Court of Appeals illustrates the growing
reach of President Benigno Aquino's anti-corruption drive in a
country long plagued by endemic graft.
Former President Arroyo has herself been detained in an army
hospital since October on plunder charges.
Ongpin, 75, is the country's ninth-richest man with a net
worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He does not
deny that Mike Arroyo is a close friend.
A Harvard Business School graduate and certified accountant,
Ongpin was trade minister under late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
His investments cut a broad swathe through the economy. He
is the largest single investor in the country's biggest
conglomerate, San Miguel Corp, via his firm Top
Frontier Investment Holdings, with a 37 percent stake.
He also owns medium-sized Philippine Bank of Communications
, property firm Alphaland Corp, oil explorer
Atok-Big Wedge, gaming firm Philweb Corp.
Ongpin used the loan proceeds to acquire a stake in top
mining firm Philex Mining Corp, which he sold weeks
later for a 65 percent gain to Hong Kong's First Pacific Co Ltd
, according to stock exchange filings.