The Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 17, 1999)

BUSINESS magnate Enrique Zobel said he had around 200 witnesses who could testify on the existence of the Marcos gold, including those who had dug it up and a European associate who knew about the secret Marcos accounts.

In a letter faxed from Spain to former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez on Thursday, Zobel said he was also willing to testify at the Senate inquiry set next month on the secret $13.2-billion ''I. Arenetta'' account and the gold hoard of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

But the problem, Zobel said, was that he was due for his yearly medical checkup at the Stanford Medical Center in California next month, and would not be available until November.

Zobel, who was one of Marcos's critics, was paralyzed from the neck down after a polo accident in Spain in 1991. He has since been confined to a wheelchair.

Now 72, Zobel had earlier estimated the gold hoard to be worth $35 billion, based on documents and certificates that Marcos showed him in late 1988.

He was named one of four trustees of a foundation that Marcos wanted to set up then. The dictator died a year later.

''I have approximately 200 witnesses who dug up the gold in the Philippines and can testify (as to) the locations, dates and the amounts,'' Zobel said in his letter to Chavez, a copy of which was made available to the Inquirer.

''Regretfully, most of them are afraid to come out in the open.'' He said one of his close friends, a European whom he described as ''quite knowledgeable about the Marcos accounts and somewhat involved with a European government,'' was also willing to testify and show proof on the Marcos accounts.

But the European's transport and lodging expenses should be taken care of, he said.

''These people are willing to testify before the Senate as long as I am present with them,'' Zobel said.

He said he also knew someone who had pictures of the actual gold bars with the original identifications.

No one interested

Zobel told Chavez that for 11 years, he had been talking and writing about the Marcos gold.

''But unbelievably,'' he said, ''nobody was interested.''

He added: ''I have heard all kinds of rumors of negotiations being done abroad between high-ranking government officials and Marcos's representatives so that all their Philippine taxes would be avoided and the Filipino people would be kept unaware of the true situation. How sad!''

Zobel also disclosed alleged attempts by the present Presidential Commission on Good Government to get information from him on the secret Marcos accounts early this year, two months before he left for Spain.

This was after Australian investigator Reiner Jacobi had exposed the $13.2-billion account under the client number of Marcos daughter Irene Araneta, and informed the PCGG about it.

Jacobi said the Marcos gold, which he had confirmed based on evidence, amounted to 1,241 tons.

''The PCGG sent Commissioner Antonio Rosales, with some of their top ranking officials, a lawyer and an ex-manager of one of the sequestered firms, to visit me at my house in Alabang,'' Zobel said.

''I told them that I would give the information I have to the President or to the Senate, only because I do not trust the PCGG.''

He said the PCGG had not tried to talk to him before, although it knew that he had knowledge of the Marcos gold as well as other information revealed to him by the dictator himself.

Zobel said Marcos had also told him of how ''presidential relatives and some PCGG people were asking for funds,'' among other things.

He said these persons were relatives of former President Corazon Aquino.

''Keep all the above in mind should you need further ammunition. Hope your Senate hearing in August will be a success,'' Zobel said.

''It is so refreshing to find out that somebody like you is interested in the Marcos gold issue, as this, I believe, would be the salvation of the Filipino people.

''Hope you will help our country recover the gold finally, before it all disappears without a trace.'' A thumbprint of Zobel was affixed to the letter.

Chavez faxed a letter to Zobel in Spain last July 12, in answer to the businessman's letter questioning the former solicitor general's reasons for investigating the Marcos gold.

More than half

In Malacañang, Fernando Barican, President Estrada's spokesperson, yesterday said the Philippine government planned to borrow up to $350 million from the Marcos money held in an escrow account in the Philippine National Bank as soon as its credit rating was enhanced.

The PNB ''is negotiating for an insurance enhancement agreement that will allow investing $350 million of the $590 million in escrow in Philippine government securities, treasury bills or bonds,'' Barican said.

The funds were seized by Swiss authorities from secret bank accounts in Zurich and handed over to the PNB.

The PNB had been deposed to safeguard the funds and invest them only in AA, or prime investment-grade, instruments until a Philippine court ruled on their rightful ownership.

The Philippines' sovereign debt status remains in junk-bond territory, ruling out their investment here unless certain insurance firms provide a guarantee.

The PNB had said it was involved in talks ''with a number of appropriate credit-enhancing institutions which could provide, directly or indirectly, such guarantee.''
Enzo To Testify On Marcos Gold
By Donna S. Cueto
(Donated by: Bill Luttig)
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