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Dismissal of fake US$5 billion bank draft case seen to benefit other Pinoys

03 October 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The Consulate has welcomed the dropping of the charges against three Filipino male tourists accused of using a US$5 billion fake bank draft in an HSBC transaction, and says it is looking at how the case can be used to help other Filipinos in similar situations.

Elmer Soliman, Eric Jude Soliman and Eliseo Martinez walked free from detention on Sept 18, three months after their arrest on charges of using a false instrument. The prosecution told the District Court the charges against them were being withdrawn because of insufficient evidence.

Eliseo Martinez (left), Elmer Soliman (right), supporter Pieter Nootenboom and Eric Jude Soliman take a coffee break afterobtaining a visa from the Immigration.

Consul Paulo Saret said he was seeking advice from the Consulate’s legal counsel, Melville Boase, on the possible benefit that can be had from the case.

“We are consulting Attorney Boase about what advantage under the legal system in Hong Kong we can gain from the current dismissal of the trio’s case because, of course, we also want to help the others. They have already served time like these three,” he said. Four Filipinos accused of the same charge of using fake bank documents are in jail, pending the outcome of their cases.

Saret said the ATN would also seek Boase’s advice on how to request for the case details on the withdrawal from the District Court so the Consulate can report the case to Manila.

The Soliman father and son, together with Matinez, were arrested on June 25 for allegedly trying to open a bank account at the HSBC head office in Central with a US$5 billion bank draft that its owner had purportedly received as a reward from ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The three said they went to the bank to verify if the instrument was genuine, but a bank staff who they described as “overzealous” called the police. They were arrested along with two companions who waited outside the room but were later released.

The Solimans and Martinez, a lawyer, got off the hook on Sept 18 when the prosecution said after nearly three months of investigation that it did not have enough evidence to nail them on a charge of “using false instruments”. 

There are four other Filipinos separately facing a charge of “using false instruments” in the District Court in Wanchai for allegedly trying to pass off spurious money instruments as genuine in separate bank transactions in Hong Kong.

The four were arrested between Dec 9, 2016 and Apr 9 this year. All came to Hong Kong as tourists carrying questionable instruments, such as a check, bank drafts, a deposit slip and wads of traveler’s checks.

 The longest-detained defendant is 76-year-old tourist Maria Ilao Gosilatar, who allegedly tried to cash a US$50 million fake check at the Hang Seng Bank headquarters on Des Veoux Road Central on Dec 9, 2016. She was arrested along with a local male accountant on Dec 9, 2016. The man was later released.

Then on Oct 18 last year, 57-year-old Filipina tourist Elena S Orosa and her friend Veronica F Yambao, both visitors, were arrested while allegedly attempting to cash US$2 billion worth of fake bank drafts in a Hang Seng Bank branch in Tsimshatsui.

Orosa, a businesswoman, was scheduled for plea-taking in District Court on Apr 17, but her counsel said she was getting a Legal Aid lawyer and needed time for further advice.

Noel Rambuyon, 31, came to Hong Kong as a tourist with booklets of Thomas Cooke traveler’s checks denominated at US$1,000 each, or US$50,000 in total, around the Lunar New Year in February.

He was arrested while allegedly trying to cash them in a small bank in Central. He was charged with “using a false instrument” in Eastern Court. His case has been moved to the District Court.

The biggest of these 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.

He was arrested and charged with “using a false instrument” after he allegedly tried to convince staff the document was genuine. His Legal Aid lawyer said on Sept 4 that Bolaños was going to plead not guilty, so, his trial was set for Jan 29 next year.

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