US returns $1 million forfeited from Filipino ex-general

AP News
Posted: Jun 03, 2015 9:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The United States returned to the Philippine government on Wednesday more than $1 million from the forfeited assets of a discharged Filipino general accused of stashing illegally obtained wealth in America.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg handed a check worth $1.38 million to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who prosecutes Philippine government officials accused of corruption.

The returned money consists of proceeds from the sale of a Trump Tower condo in New York City and two Citibank accounts traced to former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

U.S. authorities have helped the Philippines in the past to prosecute high-profile figures charged with corruption and other crimes, including the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed in a 1986 public revolt.

Philippine and U.S. investigators determined that Garcia laundered a substantial portion of his criminal proceeds through the U.S., according to Goldberg.

"Battling public corruption is a challenge that all countries face, including the United States," Goldberg said. "Meeting that challenge is vitally important to ensure public confidence in the honesty and integrity of public servants."

In January 2012, the U.S. initially turned over to Philippine officials $100,000 after U.S. Customs authorities seized the undeclared money from two sons of Garcia who were entering California in December 2003.

Garcia was initially charged with plunder, money laundering and perjury for allegedly helping to steal huge military funds intended for troop salaries, weapons and combat equipment. He was convicted of perjury but later pleaded to lesser offenses.

Corruption in the Philippine military is an especially explosive issue and has sparked insurrections by disgruntled troops in the past.

Regarded as one of Asia's weakest militaries, the Philippine force is inadequately equipped and funded. It's been fighting Muslim and Marxist insurgencies for decades and has struggled to modernize its naval fleet and air force while China increases its activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea.