CHICAGO (FAXXNA/jGLi) – A former Philippine foreign service officer who also acted as the New York-based personal secretary of Imelda R. Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines, was given Monday (Jan. 13) an indeterminate sentence from two to six years in prison by Judge Renee A. White of the Supreme Court of New York in New York city for criminal tax fraud for offering a false instrument for filing her income tax and conspiracy after possessing and selling valuable works of art acquired by Mrs. Marcos during her husband’s presidency.
Vilma Bautista, 75, was also ordered to pay $3.5-Million in restitution to the state of New York after a jury found her guilty of the charges against her last year. She will, however, will stay out of prison pending the outcome of her appeal after Judge White allowed her to “remain out on bail,” according to sources familiar with case at the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance.
There was no word yet on the sentence of Bautista’s two nephews and co-accused Thai Americans Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana (Jansen), 38, and Pongsak Navalaksana (Pongsak), 41, who allegedly conspired with her in selling art works that included Claude Monet “Water-Lily” painting, which the defendants sold in September 2010 for $32 million.
All three defendants were indicted in 2012 with Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, and also charged Bautista with Criminal Tax Fraud in the First Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Jansen is charged with Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fourth Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree.
According to the indictment papers, during her husband’s presidency, Imelda Marcos used state assets to acquire a vast collection of artwork and other valuables. Much of the art adorned official Philippine government property in the Philippines and Manhattan. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos fled the Philippines in February 1986 following a popular revolt.
In the period of time immediately before and after the fall of the Marcos regime, a significant amount of artwork and other valuables disappeared from Philippine government property, including from the Philippine Consulate townhouse in Manhattan. Since then, the Philippine government has engaged in a public campaign to recover missing and stolen property acquired by the Marcoses. Bautista was accused of having been aware of and monitoring this campaign, even as she possessed some of the valuable works of art.
“LE BASSIN AUX NYMPHEASE”
In or after February 1986, according to the indictment, Bautista came into possession of numerous works of art acquired by the Marcoses during Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency, including Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphease” (also known as “Japanese Footbridge Over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny”), 1899, (the “Water-Lily”).
Each of the four paintings disappeared in 1986 around the time the Marcoses fell from power, and each ended up in Bautista’s possession. Bautista is accused of secretly keeping the paintings for many years.
Beginning in 2009, Bautista, with the assistance of her two nephews, Jansen and Pongsak, attempted to sell the paintings covertly. The indictment details the defendants’ acknowledgement of the illegal nature of their conduct and the need to legitimize it in email exchanges. They discussed the possibility that they might be “busted” trying to sell the paintings on the “black market,” and expressed their fear of being “arrested” and going to “jail.”
While acting as First Lady of the Philippines, Mrs. Marcos purchased three paintings in the 1970s at a London gallery, and took possession of them with instructions to deliver two of the Paintings, the “Vetheuil” and “Langland Bay,” to the Malacanang Palace in the Philippines (the state residence of the Philippine president), while taking possession of the “Water-Lily” painting herself. The “Vetheuil” and “Langland Bay” paintings later were shipped out of the country and hung on the walls of the Philippine Townhouse located in Manhattan.
The fourth painting – “Algerian View” – was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in Manila and was later shipped to Imelda Marcos in New York City with several other paintings in 1982.
Each of the four paintings disappeared in 1986 around the time the Marcoses fell from power, and each ended up in defendant Vilma Bautista’s possession.
According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, the defendants focused their efforts on the most valuable painting, Claude Monet’s “Water-Lily,” and used a variety of illicit means to achieve its sale, including the use of false documents to establish Bautista’s purported legal authority to sell the painting and receive the proceeds. The defendants successfully sold the “Water-Lily” painting in September 2010 to a London gallery for $32 million. Bautista was accused of distributing millions of dollars to Jansen and Pongsak, as well as other unindicted co-conspirators, while keeping the largest share of the money herself.
Several months later, in March and April 2011, Bautista and Jansen filed New York State tax returns for 2010 in which they failed to disclose the sale of the “Water-Lily” painting, or any income they received from the sale, thereby depriving New York State of millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Assistant District Attorneys Edward Starishevsky and Garrett Lynch, and former Assistant District Attorney Aaron Wolfson led the investigation and prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy.
PHOTO CAPTION AND CREDIT
BAUTISTA LEAVES COURT: Vilma Bautista (center) is shown in the photograb from www.nytimes.com as she emerges from the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan accompanied by her lawyers prior to her sentencing Monday, Jan. 13, for an indeterminate prison term of from two to six years by Judge Renee A. White, who allowed her to “remain out on bail” pending the outcome of her appeal.