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Pinoys in US$5B bank draft case denied bail

03 August 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

District Court.
Three Filipino male tourists, one of whom is a government lawyer, failed in their attempt to gain temporary freedom after an Eastern Court magistrate denied their bail application on Jul 19,  saying their offense of trying to pass off a fake US$5billion bank draft as genuine, was a serious one.

The failed bail bid happened two days after two other Filipino male tourists appeared in District Court, both charged with trying to encash fake bank instruments worth nearly US$1trillion. One tried to encash fake traveler’s checks worth US$50,000 in February this year, while the other tried to get a fake HSBC deposit slip with a face value of a whopping US$943 billion credited to his account in April.

In the first case, Elmer P. Soliman, 57, his son Eric Jude P. Soliman, 31, and Eliseo L. Martinez returned to the court with bail money and addresses to stay in Hong Kong in case they gain temporary release, as well as a promise not to leave the city and report to police daily.

But that did not convince Magistrate Peter Law to grant their bail applications. He ordered the three defendants, who are facing a charge of “using a false instrument”, were ordered back in jail.

HSBC staff called police after seeing the fake US$5billion bank draft

Soliman and his son, who claimed to be a secretary and engineer, respectively, submitted an address on Jordan Road near the Tsimshatsui Police Station. They also offered bail money of $15,000 each and their Hong Kong Chinese friend who was in court was ready to put up a surety of $3,000 each, their lawyer told Law.

Third defendant Martinez, a lawyer, offered bail of $15,000 in addition to an offer of $15,000 surety from his friend “Mr Pieter”,  a Hong Kong resident. His lawyer also offered a new address, also in Saikung, where Martinez would reside.

Despite the offers, however, Law remained firm in refusing their bail applications, saying the charge against them was serious. But he said they could try their luck at the High Court.

Law told Martinez he had considered his case separately, but rejected his bail application. 

Martinez, wearing a red round-neck shirt, smiled to his wife and daughter as he emerged in the dock along with the Solimans. The daughter wiped off her tears as she beheld her father, a 46-year-old municipal lawyer in Tarlac province.

For the Solimans, a son and grandson of Elmer came with two local Chinese friends and a Filipina companion.

  Magistrate Law said the case could now go to a pre-trial review on Aug. 9.

The three defendants were arrested on Jun 25 at the HSBC main office in Central after they tried to open an account using the fake bank draft worth US$5 billion. Two other unidentified persons who were with them were initially arrested but were later released by the police.

The prosecution said the elder Soliman approached a female staff to open an account. He then presented the bank draft that was handed to him by Martinez. The staff called the police when they noticed that the bank instrument was spurious.

A raid on their hotel room in Tsimshatsui followed, and police seized a suitcase with documents. Investigations are continuing.

In the District Court, Filipino tourists Noel Rambuyon and Brudencio Bolaños appeared for the first hearing of their individual cases of “using a false instrument” since the transfer of their respective cases from Eastern Court in Sai Wan Ho.

No plea was taken from either of the defendants. Their lawyer from Legal Aid applied for a six-week adjournment to study the cases.

Judge Gary Lam adjourned the cases until Sept 4 and ordered Rambuyon and Bolaños back in jail.

Bolaños was arrested on Apr 9 after he allegedly tried to update his account at HSBC on using the US$943 billion deposit slip.

Staff called police after he allegedly tried to convince them that the document was genuine.

Rambuyon faces a charge of using a false instrument after his arrest around the Lunar New Year this year when he presented the Thomas Cook traveler’s checks worth US$50,000 for exchange at a money shop in Central.

A police forensic examination determined that the travelers checks were fake, and this was confirmed by the bank that used to issue similar instruments in Britain.

The cases are the latest in a recent string of similar incidents involving Filipino tourists, mostly professionals who are middle aged to elderly, trying to pass off as genuine fake bank instruments supposedly worth astounding sums.

A Consulate officer had earlier said the resurgence of money scams involved people claiming access to Marcos-era hidden wealth in the form of bank instruments and looking for investors who are willing to exchange these for cash in Hong Kong.

There are now three other such cases pending in the District Court.

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