Dichaves asks court to drop plunder case
Businessman Jaime Dichaves has asked the Sandiganbayan anew to drop him as a co-accused in the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada arising from the Jose Velarde account.
Dichaves insisted it was Estrada who owned the Velarde account and therefore his indictment for plunder was baseless and should be dismissed.
In an Aug. 15 pleading filed by his lawyer Pacifico Agabin, he said the Sandiganbayan’s September 2007 ruling finding Estrada guilty of plunder also cleared him of criminal liability.
“As the honorable court found in its decision in this case…accused Dichaves was not the owner of the Velarde account and therefore there is no basis for any finding of probable cause against him,” Agabin said.
Guilty of plunder
In its 2007 decision finding Estrada guilty of plunder, the Sandiganbayan ruled the former president was the owner of the Velarde account. Estrada had consistently denied this and maintained that the account was Dichaves’.
Estrada was accused of, among other things, depositing billions of pesos in the Velarde account, to which he had signed the name Jose Velarde on bank documents. Estrada was eventually convicted of plunder, but was later pardoned by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Dichaves was implicated in the case for having allegedly delivered to Estrada the latter’s commission from the purchase of BelleCorp. shares worth P1.847 billion by the Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System.
The money was reportedly deposited in the Velarde account at the then Equitable-PCIBank.
Last July, the Sandiganbayan directed the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation of the plunder charge against Dichaves. A special division of the court had denied Dichaves’ motion to quash the charge.
Dichaves, who fled the country just before Estrada was ousted in 2001, asked the antigraft court in December last year to dismiss the plunder case against him or order a reinvestigation. He said he intended to return to the country and face the charges against him.
Dichaves also moved for the withdrawal of an arrest warrant issued against him in 2001.
He claimed he wasn’t given a chance by the Ombudsman to refute the charges. He said there was no proper preliminary investigation of the case since he had left the country ahead of its filing.
Deputy Special Prosecutors Robert E. Kallos and John Turalba countered that Dichaves fled the country precisely to avoid prosecution, and then used his absence to avoid a trial.
Agabin, however, said his client was not among the accused when the plunder information was filed on April 4, 2001, and when an amended information was filed 15 days later.
It was only on Sept. 20, 2001, that the prosecution moved to further amend the amended information to include Dichaves, and only on Oct. 30, 2001, that Dichaves was included in Criminal Case No. 26558 for plunder, he said.
Agabin said the prosecutors were trying to deceive the court as to the need for a preliminary investigation to determine Dichaves’ role in the plunder case.
“This position of the prosecution is inaccurate and deceptive because while it is true that there was a preliminary investigation in this case, there was none involving the accused Dichaves,” he said.