THE United States on Wednesday returned to the Philippines more than $1.3 million of ill-gotten wealth acquired by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Comptroller General Carlos Garcia.
The money was believed to be laundered to the United States by Garcia.
A statement from the US Embassy in Manila said an investigation conducted by its Department of Homeland Security led them to two Citibank accounts in New York and a condominium at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York.
The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York then initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against those assets and eventually obtained default judgments of forfeiture, the statement added.
The net proceeds resulting from the sale of the condominium and the funds from the two Citibank accounts amounted to $1,384,940.28.
This was presented to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales through the form of a check by US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg.
"Battling public corruption is a challenge that all countries face, including the United States. Meeting that challenge is vitally important to ensure public confidence in the honesty and integrity of public servants," Goldberg said in the same statement.
He added that since retiring as justice from the Supreme Court and eventually serving as Ombudsman, Morales "has been tireless in the investigation and prosecution of public corruption cases."
"The United States is very pleased to be able to assist Ombudsman Morales and her office whenever possible," Goldberg said.
In January 2012, the US government initially turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman some $100,000, or P430,000, in cash seized by US customs authorities from Garcia's two sons upon their entry in California in December 2003.
That incident triggered the investigations into the transactions entered into by the former major general while he was still with the AFP.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed criminal cases of perjury, money laundering and plunder against Garcia for allegedly amassing P303.27 million in ill-gotten wealth while serving in the armed forces.
He was eventually convicted of perjury by the Sandiganbayan, but entered into a plea bargain agreement on the money laundering and plunder charges.
Under the controversial agreement, Garcia was allowed to plead guilty and post bail for the lesser offenses if he returns half of the P303.27 million.
Provisions of his plea bargain agreement are still under review by the Supreme Court.
In 2011, former AFP budget officer George Rabusa uncovered before the Senate the armed forces "pabaon" (send-off) system for its retiring chief of staff.
Garcia and General Jacinto Ligot were AFP comptrollers when the system was still in place.
Rabusa said it was Garcia who asked him to divert a portion of the armed forces' provisions for command-directed activities to send-off money, which amounted to not less than P50 million for each chief of staff. (CVB/Sunnex)