June 13, 2007 / 7:54 AM / in 12 years

Manila court clears Imelda Marcos of tax evasion

MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine court ruled on Wednesday that flamboyant former first lady Imelda Marcos was innocent in five cases of tax evasion dating back to the 1980s.

Former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos answers questions from the media during the opening of her exhibit in Manila November 18, 2006. A Philippine court ruled on Wednesday that flamboyant former first lady Imelda Marcos was innocent in five cases of tax evasion dating back to the 1980s. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

Marcos, the widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, shed tears as Judge Rosa Samson Tatad announced the verdict in the Quezon City regional trial court.

“Thank God,” Marcos, famous for vast collections of shoes and jewellery, told reporters after hearing the decision.

“At last, after 21 years, justice for the Marcoses has prevailed. I am very happy because this is not just for the Marcoses but it will ultimately be justice for the Filipino people.”

Tatad said government prosecutors had failed to present enough evidence to pin down Marcos for alleged failure to pay income and estate taxes in 1985 and 1989.

“The prosecution’s scanty evidence failed to establish the element of criminal intent on the part of Mrs. Marcos in all the criminal complaints filed against her,” she said.

Ferdinand Marcos and his family have been accused of looting up to $10 billion from the Southeast Asian country in jewellery, shares, art, property and bank deposits before his overthrow in an army-backed popular revolt in 1986.

Imelda Marcos returned to the Philippines in 1991 from the family’s exile in Hawaii, where her husband had died in 1989. She has run for president twice and won one term in Congress. Her son won a seat in the lower house of Congress in elections in May.

Despite 20 years and hundreds of lawsuits, only about 62 billion pesos ($1.24 billion) in cash, including Swiss bank deposits, have been recovered from the Marcos family.

The bulk of the Marcos assets in the Philippines, amounting to about 222 billion pesos, remain locked in about 600 lawsuits, while nearly $80 million in assets abroad are being litigated.

Additional reporting by Anna Pambid

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