MANILA, Philippines?Daniel Dingel, 82-year-old inventor of a ?water-powered car,? has been convicted of ?estafa? [swindling] and sentenced to a maximum of 20 years imprisonment by the Parañaque City Regional Trial Court.
The court also ordered him to pay $380,000 in actual damages.
Dingel, who has never revealed the secret to his invention, which he began in 1969, questioned the verdict but said he did not mind going to jail at his age. As of late Friday, he remained at large.
??Hindi ko naman kailangan ng pera? [I don?t need the money],? he said. ?I had bigger offers but I never took them. I never asked the government for a single centavo ... I just want to help.?
Dingel was found guilty of taking $410,000 from Dr. John Ding Young of Formosa Plastics Group, a Taiwanese company, which gave it to him as research and development funds.
The decision, written by Judge Rolando How of the court?s Branch 257 and released on Dec. 9, said Dingel defrauded Young when the inventor failed to fulfill his obligation of developing his ?hydrogen reactor? and creating experimental cars in 2000.
Veteran lawyer Frank Chavez, who was approached by Dingel on Friday, said he would immediately appeal the court decision before it became final on Christmas Eve.
?I am taking up his case and will see to it that his conviction is reversed,? Chavez said. ?Mankind will benefit from his invention ... How will we know his secret if we put him behind bars??
Chavez, a former solicitor general, said he was impressed when he rode Dingel?s ?water-powered? Toyota Corolla sedan.
In his testimony to the court, Young said his group eagerly approached Dingel in November 2000 after hearing that he had discovered a way to extract hydrogen from ordinary water to power his 1996 Toyota Corolla.
The unique device ? a ?hydrogen reactor? resembling a 12-volt battery ? impressed the Taiwanese when Dingel demonstrated how it powered and fueled the car?s engine. They were also told that fuel from water had clean emissions as it did not produce carbon the way gasoline did.
Convinced that the invention was genuine, Young and his group drew up a broad outline and signed a ?preliminary understanding? with Dingel for several projects.
On Nov. 30, 2000, the inventor flew to the Formosa Plastics Group headquarters in Taipei and received $30,000 in goodwill money and $20,000 for research and development after signing a joint venture agreement.
Young said Dingel asked for $300,000 to buy three cars to be used as prototypes for the invention when he returned to the Philippines.
He said that after receiving the money by wire transfer, Dingel avoided replying to his emails on the progress of the project and instead sent copies of letters from other foreign investors offering Dingel larger sums of money.
Young said that in September 2001 Dingel declined to sign the amended agreement when he was asked to go to Taipei to discuss mutual concerns on the project.
Young said he kept his end of the bargain by sending another $60,000 in additional funds for R&D as stated in the joint venture agreement.
He said it was then that Dingel began ignoring his communications. He said he sent demand letters for the return of $410,000 were but Dingel did not give the amount back.
In his defense, Dingel said he backed out of talks with the Taiwanese after he was pressured to divulge details of his project, which he said he refused to do to protect his invention.
Dingel said that after touring the plant in Taipei he was invited to become the company?s consultant and was asked to tour Formosa Plastics Group plants in Texas. He said he declined for fear for his life.
??Tumanggi ako kasi alam ko may pinatay na imbentor ng water-fueled car? [I declined because I know another inventor of a water-fueled car had been murdered],? he said, referring to Stan Meyer, who allegedly received threats from oil companies and was allegedly poisoned in 1998 because of his pioneering invention.
Dingel admitted signing the joint agreement but said he did not know what he was signing at the time. He said an envelope containing $30,000 was given to him in appreciation of his consultancy work and $300,000 was remitted to him only as an incentive for submitting his drawings and designs.
The court found Dingel guilty of misappropriating the funds he received from Formosa Plastics Group.
Judge How said Dingel admitting that he received the funds and documentary evidence from Yung, such as the joint venture agreement, showed that the funds were given for ?specific purposes.?
?Mr. Dingel did not use the money for the purpose it was intended,? the court decision said. ?...He excused himself from producing or developing the prototypes allegedly after entertaining the notion that his invention would be stolen. Since he thought of it, he should have returned the money to Dr. Young and told the latter to forget his invention.?
The decision said that instead of returning the money, Dingel withdrew $375,603.89 from his bank account and left only $500.
?He admitted withdrawing the money after learning that a suit had been filed against him,? it said. ?His act of immediately withdrawing the money indicated bad faith on his part.?
Judge How said Dingel failed to support with evidence his claim that he had earned the money and therefore had no obligation to return it.
He said Dingel?s reasoning that he did not read the joint venture agreement before signing it was ?too flimsy to be given an ounce of consideration.?
?He did not purchase the three cars, [he] did not work on his research and [he] did not develop the invention ... Mr. Dingel?s misappropriation of the money has no doubt resulted to damage and prejudice of Dr. Young and the FPG in the sum of $380,000,? the decision said.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dingel said he was still willing to sell his biggest secret ? on condition that the buyer would hire 200 Filipinos and their families.
He said the royalties to be paid to him would go to a foundation he would set up for the poor.
The Department of Science and Technology has dismissed Dingel?s invention as a hoax. Edited by INQUIRER.net