Intercepted cash shipment in Philippines released


MANILA, AFP

Philippine Customs officials have released US$11.6 million in cash which had been seized Friday at Manila airport on suspicion it belonged to deposed leader Joseph Estrada, reports said.

Local news reports Saturday said customs commissioner Titus Villanueva ordered the release after initial findings showed the shipment was legal and that the money belonged to the Bank of America and Hong Kong Bank.

Officials at the two banks said that they regularly shipped U.S. dollars from the Philippines to Hong Kong, then on to the United States, adding that the funds were excess dollars which had been deposited with them by local banks.

The two shipments, consisting of US$4.3 million and US$7.3 million, were seized Friday after a private watchdog group, the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption, alleged that Estrada might be moving his alleged ill-gotten wealth out of the country.

Airport customs officials had previously said the two banks were “regular shippers,” but due to the allegations, had held on to the shipments until they could be verified.

Estrada was toppled in a military-backed popular revolt last weekend, after an inconclusive corruption trial in which prosecutors linked him to tens of millions of dollars in unexplained wealth.

Raul Daza, a lawyer for Estrada, denied his client owned the money that was being shipped out.