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Suspect’s illness delays US$100B ‘fake check’ case anew

18 January 2019

District Court in Wanchai

By Vir B. Lumicao

A three-day trial in District Court of a Filipino tourist accused of using a false instrument was reset on Jan 16 when the defendant could not attend because he was sick.

The elderly defendant, Celerino L. Tinana, was in a hospital with doctors monitoring his heartbeat, his Legal Aid-assigned counsel told Judge David Dufton.

The prosecution had asked for a two-week adjournment but the judge, visibly irritated, said the case was already adjourned during the last hearing on Nov 14, 2018, supposed to be the start of a three-day trial.

Dufton adjourned the hearing and ordered the prosecution to call the hospital and ascertain if the defendant would be available for trial in three days.

Tinana, an Ilocano, was arrested in November 2017 while allegedly presenting a fake check for US$100 billion in a Kowloon branch of Bank of China.

He was granted bail in the previous hearing by District Court Judge Eddie Yip, who also agreed to adjourn the case until Jan 16 despite objections from the defense.

Tinana is one of a growing number of Filipino tourists, many of them elderly, who have been arrested over the past two years on similar charges. Several have been convicted, three acquitted, and the rest are still awaiting trial in District Court.

It is not clear why they had agreed to present to banks what to many appear to be patently spurious documents.

The latest Filipino tourist arrested for allegedly trying to pass off false instruments as genuine was David Morano Jr. He was nabbed in July last year while allegedly trying to transact business in a local bank using fake gold certificates worth US$500 billion.

The trial of the longest-held defendant, 76-year-old Maria Ilao Gosilatar, on a charge of “using a false instrument,” will start on Jan 30 in District Court,

Gosilatar was arrested on Dec 9, 2016, for allegedly trying to cash a US$50 million fake check at the Hang Seng Bank headquarters in Central. She had been in custody since then.

The biggest of these false instrument cases involves Brudencio J. Bolaños, another 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 after he allegedly tried to convince bank staff the document was genuine. On Sept 4 last year, his trial was set for Jan 29 this year after his Legal Aid lawyer said Bolaños was going to plead not guilty.

At least three others charged with the same offense were, however, acquitted in September last year, after the prosecution decided to drop the charges against them for insufficient evidence.

Elmer Soliman, 57, his son Eric Jude Soliman, 31, and government lawyer Eliseo Martinez, 43, were acquitted of a charge of trying to pass off a fake US$5billion bank draft as genuine.

However, Magistrate Peter Law denied their application for costs, saying he suspected a money laundering attempt in the case.

The three had been in custody for nearly three months before their acquittal and release.

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