UK tycoon pays PH rights victims $10M
A British billionaire paid $43 million for a Monet masterpiece that once belonged to former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos then paid another $10 million to thousands of Filipino rights victims to keep it and himself from being dragged into court, US and British media reported on Thursday.
The New York Post and Britain’s The Telegraph said hedge fund manager Alan Howard paid the Filipino class-action group in exchange for a legal release on any claims regarding the ownership of the painting “Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny.”
Howard, worth an estimated $1.6 billion, said he bought the painting “in good faith” from a London gallery in 2010.
But US investigators said the painting was stolen by Vilma Bautista, former personal secretary of Imelda Marcos in New York, and illegally sold it to pay off debts.
Bautista, 75, has been charged in Manhattan with conspiracy and tax fraud over the illegal sale of the painting.
Howard, the Swiss-based founder of respected Brevan Howard Asset Management, bought the painting from the London gallery and dealership Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox in September 2010 after being assured by the seller and legal advisers that the Monet masterpiece was safe to buy, according to The Telegraph.
Howard is not accused of any wrongdoing and is not going to be called to Bautista’s trial.
But he is considering legal action against the London gallery, the New York Post said, citing a post on the website Smoking Gun.
The gallery reportedly made about $7.5 million on the sale of the Monet. The Telegraph said more than $30 million of the purchase price went to Bautista.
Manhattan prosecutors said that after Bautista got the money from the gallery, she gave $5.1 million to her nephews and another $4.5 million to other associates.
The New York Post said she used $2.2 million to buy an apartment in New York, spent $1.3 million on insurance and annuity products, paid off a $637,000 mortgage and shelled out $800,000 for miscellaneous expenses.
The prosecutors said the painting, along with several others, vanished shortly after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled from power in February 1986.
Smoking Gun said the Monet was believed to have been the most valuable in the collection of Imelda Marcos, who relocated to New York after her husband’s death in 1989 and who is now a representative of Ilocos Norte province in the House of Representatives.
But the painting did not appear on a list of missing property suspected of being paid for with Philippine government funds, Smoking Gun said.
More than 9,500 victims of human rights violations during the martial law regime of Marcos have filed class-action suits to reclaim Marcos’ assets in the United States, including the Monet painting.
Through their American lawyer Robert Swift, the rights victims filed suit against Bautista for the illegal sale of the painting.
Swift and Howard discussed the lawsuit and in June this year, Howard agreed to pay the class-action group $10 million in exchange for a legal release from all claims to the painting.
The $10 million was deposited to the class-action settlement fund in federal court in Hawaii, which is handling the rights victims’ case. With reports from Ceres P. Doyo, The New York Post and The Telegraph
Originally posted at 2:50 p.m. | November 1, 2013
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.