Law firm questions DOJ flip-flopping in bank caseBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A law firm has questioned a series of conflicting orders issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on a multimillion-peso criminal case involving Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) officials.
In a letter sent to the DOJ last July 5, the Divina & Uy Law Offices (DivinaLaw), on behalf of its client Philippine Investment Two Inc. (PI II), sought clarification from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima over three separate orders she issued “which raises serious questions on the actions of certain officials in your Honorable Office.”
DivinaLaw lawyers Alfonzo Verzosa and James Benedict Panopio said the DOJ orders had prejudiced PI II’s criminal cases filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Makati against Standard Chartered Bank officials.
De Lima’s staff confirmed receiving the letter but said a reply was still being crafted.
Last December, PI II filed a criminal case for other deceits under Article 318 of the Revised Penal Code against bank officials who, PI II alleged, deliberately withheld vital information from its rehabilitation proceedings before the Makati Regional Trial Court.
PI II, through its other counsels CVC Law, last December also filed a perjury case with the Makati prosecutor against the bank officials led by Mahendra Gursahani, Chun Wei Yeong, Kathrina Sebastian and Karen Chin Geok Go for allegedly deliberately issuing false statements during PI II’s rehabilitation proceedings before the court.
Verzosa and Panopio, in their letter to De Lima, inquired about the circumstances that led to the “sudden” issuance of Department Order No. 347 dated May 20, which was reversed by DO 417 seven days later, only to be “mysteriously” reinstated again through DO 460 dated June 18.
The last order redesignated DOJ prosecution lawyer Caterina Isabel Caeg to conduct the preliminary investigation on the two criminal actions instituted by PI II against the bank officials before the city prosecutor.
“With all due respect, the motu proprio issuance of the mysterious DO Nos. 347 and 460 casts doubt on the impartiality of your Honorable Office,” said the lawyers.
The lawyers said the orders failed to explain why the preliminary investigation of PI II’s complaints against the bank officials was suddenly transferred to the DOJ main office, after the Makati prosecutor had finished with his probe and was already all set to rule on both cases.
“DO 347 was issued under dubious circumstances. Aside from the fact that the preliminary investigation was already in the terminal stage when the issuance was made, thereby creating doubt on its motivation and timeliness, it must be emphasized that the immediate release and ready availability of DO No. 347 to ACCRALAW, a private law firm of SCB, raises serious doubts on the actions of certain officials in your Honorable Office,” added the letter.
The DivinaLaw counsels said PI II was now talking to banking regulators in New York City who had jurisdiction over some aspects of its case versus Standard Chartered.
In December 2012, the banking regulators through the New York District Attorney’s Office fined Standard Chartered $327 million “for illegal transactions that mirror [the bank’s] own transgressions against PI II in the Philippines,” the lawyers added.
In its criminal filings against Standard Chartered, PI II, the former local unit of the defunct Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., claimed the bank officials deliberately misled the rehabilitation court by denying that it had some $90 million in collaterals for the P819 million in loans it extended to PI II in 2007.