Police in the Philippines filed a plunder complaint Friday against the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for allegedly conspiring to sell to police two helicopters he owned but passed off as new.
Along with Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, police also filed charges against former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, former national police chief Jesus Verzosa and 17 other retired and active duty officers and civilians while Arroyo was still in office two years ago.
The government ombudsman, who prosecutes alleged wrongdoing by state officials and their associates, will determine if there is enough evidence for an indictment.
Samuel Pagdilao, head of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that filed the complaint, said documents and testimony from a Senate investigation showed that the former president's husband owned the helicopters when they were sold to police.
Arroyo's husband said the police had no documents to support allegations he owned the helicopters.
In a statement, he said the police "never asked to get my side" and instead relied on allegations made by an airline company official against whom he has filed perjury charges.
Archibald Po, a director of Asian Spirit airline, testified in the Senate last month that his company bought the helicopters for the former president's husband and that they were used during Arroyo's 2004 presidential campaign.
"This is clearly a pattern of harassment and persecutory tactics to vilify the Arroyos even without evidence," Arroyo said.
In a separate comment, a spokesman for the former president, who is now a member of the House of Representatives, said the government of her successor, Benigno Aquino III, is "engaged in witchhunting against the Arroyos."
"This is part of the ongoing and massive vilification campaign against the Arroyos" to cover for Aquino's alleged lack of achievements to improve the lives of Filipinos, said spokesman Raul Lambino.
Aquino has denied claims by the Arroyos that they are being targeted in his anti-corruption campaign even though he has said corruption plagued the nine-year Arroyo administration.
In 2009, police purchased what they thought were three brand new Robinsons R44 Raven 1 helicopters for 105 million pesos ($2.5 million), but two were later discovered to have already been used.
The complaint accuses Arroyo's husband and the others of "acting in concert and taking undue advantage of their official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence to unjustly enrich themselves."
Under a Philippine law, currently serving or former state employees and their associates who amass at least 50 million pesos ($1.2 million) in ill-gotten wealth through criminal acts may be charged with plunder.
It is the first plunder case filed against Arroyo's husband. The former president is herself facing three similar charges.
Benjamin de los Santos, a lawyer for Verzosa, welcomed the filing of the charges and expressed confidence that the former national police chief's actions were in accordance with the procurement law.
"Now the wheels of justice will start to move and we trust in the rule of law to ferret out the truth," he said.