Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Marcos financier trying
to avoid suit testimony

By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

HONOLULU >> A Swiss financier reported to have helped Ferdinand Marcos manage assets insists that he should not be forced to testify regarding a now-$3.1 billion class-action judgment against the late Philippine president.

The financier, Jean-Louis Sunier, said yesterday in Switzerland that he was unaware of a suggestion agreed to by his attorney in federal court in Hawaii that he make his deposition next month in Munich, Germany.

"Calling me to testify in this manner is a violation of the Hague Convention, which were signed by the United States and Switzerland," Sunier said. "It specifies that citizens of one country can only be questioned in their country." Robert Swift, attorney for Filipinos who successfully sued the Marcos estate, Monday asked U.S. District Judge Manuel Real, here from Los Angeles, to find Sunier in contempt and fine him $10,000 a day until he testifies.

Real delayed ruling on the motion and gave attorneys two days to make a final offer that would allow Sunier to testify under certain conditions and avoid incriminating himself.

Attorneys were ordered to report progress back to Real today, at which time he would decide on whether sanctions were warranted.

Sunier attorney Jack Cullen did not return a telephone message seeking comment yesterday. He told the judge he would recommend to his client that he accept the offer.

Sherry Broder, another attorney who represents the class-action plaintiffs, said yesterday she also had not heard whether the latest offer was accepted by Sunier.

Swift said he believes Sunier can provide information that would be helpful in enforcing a $2 billion judgment against the Marcos estate that has grown to $3.1 billion with interest. Sunier said yesterday that until attorneys pursue his testimony under terms of the Hague Convention, he remained bound by "professional secrecy."

He also said his testimony would add nothing because Marcos' home was looted after his fall from power and all necessary documents already were in the hands of the plaintiffs.

A class-action lawsuit by 9,539 Filipinos was filed against the Marcos estate in 1986, the year he was deposed and fled to Hawaii. He died in 1989.

In 1995, a Honolulu jury awarded plaintiffs $2 billion after finding Marcos responsible for summary executions, disappearances and torture.

The judgment was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December 1996, but plaintiffs had trouble collecting money from foreign accounts with contested ownership.

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