At first glance, it is a corporate lawsuit over the ownership of a US$45 million telecommunications firm. But on closer look, the saga surrounding the sale of the Philippine firm Meridian Telekoms descends into a melodrama complete with accusations of exorcism, insanity, kidnapping, forced detention and a spectacular family feud affecting 12 children, three mothers and two blue-chip corporations. On Tuesday, former congressman Mark Jimenez filed a criminal suit before the Makati City prosecutor's office against his own children, Marcel, Virgilio and Myla, and the latter's husband, Generoso Villanueva. He claimed that in 2004, they 'illegally [and] surreptitiously ... without my knowledge or approval' sold Meridian for US$45 million to Smart Communications, a fully owned company of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), controlled by First Pacific of Hong Kong. Mr Jimenez could not be reached for comment but his newly appointed lawyer, Frank Chavez, insisted in an interview: 'Mark Jimenez is the owner of all the stocks [but Meridian was sold] upon misrepresentation by the children that they have been authorised by Mark, who was at that time in prison in the United States.' Mr Jimenez returned to Manila in 2005 after serving two years in jail for tax evasion and election fraud. He admitted paying US$41,500 in illegal election contributions to various politicians and funnelling US$5 million out of the US tax-free. The son of a grocer, Mr Jimenez made his fortune selling computer monitors, floppy drives and printers in Latin America. He became a power broker during the presidency of Joseph Estrada, who praised him as 'a corporate genius'. Mr Jimenez is mulling filing a separate civil suit to void the Meridian sale. 'It is an option that is open to him and it's under study to annul the sale to the group of Manny Pangilinan,' Mr Chavez said. Mr Pangilinan chairs PLDT and is First Pacific's chief executive and managing director. This family squabble has transfixed the nation ever since news broke out 10 days ago that Mr Jimenez had his estranged wife, Carol, abducted and detained in a drug rehabilitation centre partly owned by his niece. Ms Jimenez is pursuing charges of domestic abuse and a permanent restriction order against Mr Jimenez, said her lawyer, Lorna Patajo-Kapunan. Carol Jimenez earlier claimed she feared for her life after her husband performed an 'exorcism' on her last year. Mr Jimenez has filed a countersuit to declare her 'mentally insane'. But his son, Virgilio, a medical-health-care lawyer in the US, claimed it was his father who had gone insane because of his time in jail, and was now driving his stepmother insane. This week, nine of his 12 children took out a full-page advert siding with Carol and accusing their father of being 'in complete denial that he has been the cause of her suffering'. Mr Jimenez has also publicly accused San Miguel Corporation chairman Eduardo Cojuangco and president Ramon Ang of dipping into his domestic affairs in retaliation for his speaking out publicly against Mr Cojuangco. He claimed Mr Cojuangco's lawyer, Gabriel Villareal, had paid for his wife's lawyer. Both businessmen have denied any involvement. The family saga is expected to turn up more surprises, since things are not what they seem when it comes to Mark Jimenez. For instance, his real name is Mario Crespo, and Carol is not his legal wife. The case continues.