Summit on Marcos cash ends in failure

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 1996, 12:00am

A SUMMIT on how to split up the fortune of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos has ended in failure, the head of the negotiations said yesterday.

Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state seconded to mediate in the five days of talks in Hong Kong, said negotiations called by two Swiss banks that hold about US$475 million in disputed assets had failed to make any headway.

Mr Crocker said: 'We have not come to any agreement on a settlement.' The $475 million is part of $5 billion that the Philippine Government alleges Marcos spirited away during his 20-year rule.

Mr Crocker said the parties did agree to stay in contact for additional talks, but there had been no decision on when or where these might take place.

'My nose tells me there might be a way forward,' he said. 'I will be in touch with the sponsors of the mediators, the two banks. It is now up to the banks and parties as to whether they will continue.' The banks, which have no claims to any of the assets, sponsored the talks.

They are believed to be anxious to be rid of the money because of concerns that they could get caught in complex legal proceedings between competing jurisdictions.

Court rulings in the Philippines, Switzerland and the United States prompted the banks to organise the conference.

The talks were attended by representatives of the federal district court in Hawaii, the Swiss Government, the Zurich district attorney's office, representatives from the Philippines Government, counsel for the Marcos family and counsel for victims of the Marcos regime.

'The discussions occurred in a constructive spirit,' said Mr Crocker. 'Over 40 hours of meetings took place - some around a plenary table, most in smaller groups.

'The parties with claims to the assets now have a clearer grasp of their respective interests and positions and of the possible avenues for translating a potential agreement into effect.

'They have not come to agreement on terms, but a number of proposals have been tabled by the sides and the mediator. The parties will remain in contact for further discussions.' Dozens of Filipino protesters gathered outside the entrance of the Ritz Carlton in Central, where the talks were held.

Robert Swift, the lead counsel for human rights victims, condemned the outcome.

Mr Swift said: 'The result is no result. No funds will be disbursed. I am not dissatisfied but simply angry.' The Swiss bank holdings were frozen in 1986 on the application of the Philippine Government following the overthrow of Marcos. Last month a US court ordered the two Swiss banks to hand over the funds in their accounts. The Swiss Government refused, saying it was against its banking laws, but the Swiss banks said they were prepared to negotiate.