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Filipinos in US$5 billion bank draft case press bail bid

14 July 2018

The US$5 billion bank draf was presented to the HSBC headquarters in HK
(photo by J del Torre)

By Vir B. Lumicao


Eastern Court Magistrate Peter Law has adjourned a new bail application by two Filipino tourists arrested for allegedly presenting a fake US$5 billion bank draft to HSBC in June, while waiting for them to submit a Hong Kong address.

The counsel for Elmer P. Soliman, 57, and Eric Jude P. Soliman, 31, who claimed to be a secretary and engineer, respectively, applied for bail for his clients on Jul 13, saying their relatives were in court with bail money.  But Law demanded a local address from their lawyer.

“If I consider their bail application, where will they stay? They must give me an address,” Law told the lawyer.

He cited court records showing, third defendant, lawyer Eliseo L. Martinez , 46, had already provided an address in Saikung. His bail application, however, was still rejected.

The two Solimans also tried to apply for bail earlier, but the prosecution opposed their application.

The defense lawyer said the Solimans’ kin, tourists who were due to leave on Jul 19, would comply with the address requirement before they return home.

Magistrate Law adjourned the hearing until Jul 19 and told the defendants and their relatives to return on that date.

The three suspects were arrested on Jun 25 while transacting business at the HSBC main office in Central. The prosecution said the three defendants went that day to the bank with two other unidentified persons.

At the bank, Soliman reportedly talked to a female staff and opened an account, presenting a government bank draft for US$5 billion that was handed to him by Martinez. Suspicious staff called the police and the three were arrested.

A subsequent raid on their room in a Tsimshatsui hotel led to the seizure of a suitcase with documents.

The case is the latest in a series of failed attempts by Filipino tourists since December 2016 to cash allegedly spurious bank instruments involving billions of US dollars in Hong Kong financial institutions.

A Consulate officer monitoring the cases says money scams by people claiming access to Marcos-era hidden wealth in the form of bank instruments seem to be resurging. Those involved have reportedly been showing the fake documents to “investors” and have apparently lured Filipinos, many of them professionals, to come to Hong Kong to get them encashed.

This has been corroborated by informants in the Philippines who said some people are going around offering vouchers that entitle investors to a hefty profit once the bank instruments are exchanged for cash in Hong Kong.
      
Among recent cases was the one involving 75-year-old tourist Maria Ilao O. Gosilatar who was arrested by police, along with a local accountant, on Dec. 9, 2016, after they tried to cash a check for US$50 million at the Hang Seng Bank headquarters in Central.

The case is pending in the District Court for trial as Gosilatar waited more than a year before she could obtain the services of a lawyer assigned by Legal Aid.

Gosilatar, allegedly the chairwoman of a Bulacan-based charity group Mama Mary 2000 International Foundation, said Philippine police had told her she had been conned.

On Oct 18 last year, Elena S. Orosa walked into a Hang Seng Bank branch on Hankow St, Kowloon, to cash US$2 billion in bank drafts. She and a fellow Filipina were arrested after police were called. Orosa’s case is awaiting trial in District court.

The frequency of the apparent scams increased around the Lunar New Year this year, when visitor Noel Rambuyon presented a wad of Thomas Cooke traveler’s checks worth US$50,000 at a money shop in Central.

He was arrested and charged with “using a false instrument” in Eastern Court, but his case has been moved to the District Court.

The biggest of these allegedly false bank instrument cases involves Brudencio J. Bolaños, an elderly Filipino who allegedly tried to update his account at HSBC on Apr 9 using a US$943 billion deposit slip ostensibly issued by the bank on Jul 25, 1983.

His allegedly tried to convince staff that the document was genuine. He was nabbed and charged with “using a false instrument”. His case will be heard in District Court this July.







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