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Rise in cases involving ‘fake’ bank drafts noted

03 July 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

A surge has been noted in the number of cases involving Filipino tourists presenting bank instruments suspected to be fake.

A Consulate officer says there seems to be a resurgence of money scams by people claiming access to Marcos-era hidden wealth in the form of bank instruments and looking for investors willing to exchange these for cash in Hong Kong.

Three such cases are now pending in the District Court.

A fourth case was filed on Jun 28 against three Filipino tourists who had apparently hoped to make US$5 billion in Hong Kong. They were charged with  “using false instruments” in Eastern Court following their arrest three days earlier for allegedly presenting a forged bank draft at HSBC.

Defendants Elmer P. Soliman, aged 57; Eric Jude P. Soliman, 31, and Eliseo L. Martinez, 46, appeared for the first time in court for the reading of the amended charge following two days of investigation that included a police raid on their hotel rooms in Tsimshatsui.

The Solimans, who claimed to be a secretary and an engineer, respectively, applied to post bails of $1,600 and $1,800, but Magistrate Peter Law heeded the prosecution’s objection and rejected their application. Martinez, said to be a lawyer, did not apply for bail.

The prosecutor said the three arrived in Hong Kong on Jun 24 as visitors and were allowed to stay until Jul 8. They lodged at Kimberley Hotel in Tsimshatsui.

On Jun 25, the three, along with two other unidentified persons, reportedly went to Room 32 in the HSBC main office on 1 Queens Road Central.

HSBC main office.
There, the older Soliman talked to a female staff and opened a bank account, the prosecutor said. When the staff asked for his deposit, Soliman presented a government bank draft for US$5 billion that was handed over to him by Martinez.

Upon inspection of the instrument, the staff noticed it was forged and alerted police. The three defendants as well as their two companions were arrested.

The prosecution said a follow-up raid at the trio’s hotel room on the same day yielded a briefcase containing a purported letter of confirmation from an HSBC executive that said the US$5 billion bank draft was genuine.

An additional charge could be filed against Soliman after investigators have completed examining other documents found in the briefcase, the prosecutor said.

Martinez, who claimed he merely tagged along to help his friend, Elmer Soliman, with the transaction, twice made gestures during the hearing by raising his hands and tapping his left chest with his right palm.

A source not related to the case said the gestures were a form of secret communication among Freemasons.

Magistrate Law adjourned the hearing until Aug 9 pending a police review of the bank CCTV footage and examination of the seized documents.

He told the defendants the prosecution had opposed granting them bail because of the serious nature of the offense, their lack of local ties and permanent addresses in Hong Kong. But they could apply for bail at the High Court, he said.

Earlier, an elderly Filipino tourist who allegedly presented a 35-year-old deposit slip for US$943 billion to HSBC to update his account will have his case heard in District Court in Wanchai starting July.

Prosecutors said this when Brudencio J. Bolanos, who is in his 60s, appeared at Eastern Court on Jun 26, charged with using a false instrument.

In an amended charge read out in court, the prosecution said that on Apr 9, Bolanos used  a deposit slip for US$943 billion purportedly issued by HSBC on Jul 25, 1983, which he presented to a bank staff.

The charge said the defendant used the instrument with the intention to convince the bank staff, May Yuk-sheng, that it was genuine. If the staff did believe the deposit slip was genuine, other people would have been put at risk, the charge said.

The prosecutor said the case records would be transferred to the District Court, where serious crimes are normally heard.

Magistrate Peter Law instructed Bolanos to prepare his evidence and call witnesses, if any.

The accused was remanded in custody as he had not applied for bail.

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