The Valentine's Day Caper

A meek woman tries this thing called private banking in Germany. On ValentineƆs Day, she attempted an incredible cross-border funds transfer.

Thanks to an exhaustive investigation by FinanceAsia, we can exclusively reveal the actual documents that illustrate this extraordinary series of events: the efforts by the Marcos clan to transfer money to Germany; the role of the middlemen; the double crossing by a freelance bounty hunter; and also the two very different parts played by two global banks.

Romantic weekend

On Friday, 9 February 2001, a Filipino couple took a romantic trip to Frankfurt on board Lufthansa Airlines Flight LH 751 from Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport. This was less than one month after the people of the Philippines had kicked out corrupt President Joseph Estrada and installed Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the new President.

While in Germany, the wife dropped into Branch No. 300 of Deutsche Bank at Koenigsallee 45/47, 40189 Dnsseldorf, Germany. She was assigned account number "Customer Master No. 7690779". She came with her husband, another Filipino friend, and two American associates. (In the following documents, we have blackened out their names).

This was about 11:45 a.m. on Monday, 12 February 2001. The bank officer was very accommodating and did not ask many questions. He did not even ask what business this Asian woman was into. She opened the account under her real name Irene Araneta, using her passport as identification.

Publicity shy

For a Filipina, Irene Araneta, 40, is unusually tall, and so is Greggy, her husband. She has an extremely fine brown complexion and broad cheeks.

Gregorio Araneta III ("Greggy"), 53, comes from a rich clan of sugar hacienderos in the Philippines, and in Manila they own vast tracts of prime commercial property. For instance, the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier boxing match in 1975 was held in the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City in Metro Manila.

Irene has always shunned the limelight despite her family lineage. Once in a while, the Senate of the Philippines inquires into her wealth, if any. Why? This will be answered later.

Conscious of their short stay in Germany, Irene wasted no time in issuing four instructions on Valentine's Day, a Wednesday, relating to her new account.

The first letter was an instruction from Irene, who wrote her address care of Atty. Eleazar Reyes of Pecabar, one of Manila's most powerful law firms. Irene's letter was addressed to the Zurich headquarters of the Swiss bank UBS, wherein she instructed the accounting department to close all the accounts and sub-accounts of her UBS client account number 885931 and transfer amounts to the German bank.

Here is a copy of Irene's letter:

IMA Feb14 Inst1

Rapid succession

Irene is the youngest daughter of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Since childhood, Irene has kept a very low profile, and during Marcos' time was never involved in politics or corporate management. Unlike the children of former Indonesian President Suharto, the Marcos children were not involved in government projects or joint ventures. Marcos left this dirty job to his cronies, shielding his children in the process.

Back in Germany, in addition to the letter instructing UBS to close her accounts and transfer them to Deutsche Bank, she also issued instructions to the latter bank regarding payment to her facilitators and friends who were helping her transfer the money. (The reason why Irene did not withdraw the money directly from UBS will be discussed later.)

The instructions she gave to UBS do not reveal why she was requesting these transfers. But why would she need to pay 25% of her money to an associate? Was it that her access to the money must have depended on these associates, or middlemen?

Here is her 14 February letter instructing Deutsche Bank to give 25% payment to a certain American male.

IMA Feb14 Inst2

On the same date, another instruction to remit 6% of the remaining 75% in the account to a certain Edna Guiyab:

IMA Feb14 Inst3

 
 
The Valentine's Day caper