Lawyers Ask Court To Spare Imelda’s Ex-secretary From Serving Her Sentence

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – The New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, New York executed  Sept. 9 the sentence for Vilma Bautista, the former personal secretary of former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, who was sentenced last January to two to six years in state prison in New York for conspiring to sell Impressionist masterpieces belonging to the Philippine government that disappeared when President Marcos was toppled from power.

When Justice Renee A. White sentenced Bautista last January, she allowed the 75-year-old Bautista to be free on $175,000 bail because she has a pacemaker and chronic heart disease while her lawyers filed an appeal. Bautista is due back in court on January 13, 2015.

She was tried and found guilty of one count of criminal tax fraud on the first degree B Felony and sentenced to two to six years in prison for non-payment of taxes; tried and found guilty of one count of offering false instrument and E Felony and sentenced to one year in prison; and tried and found guilty on conspiracy and sentenced from one to three years.


Bautista was also ordered to pay $3.5 million in income taxes she owes to New York City and New York State. She failed to report the $28-million for selling Claude Monet’s Water Lily to a London gallery, which resold the painting to a hedge fund manager in Switzerland. Her lawyers asked the court to spare her from serving her sentence because of her frail health.

After less than three hours of jury deliberation, Bautista was convicted last November for conspiracy and tax fraud for the sale of Monet’s painting, Le Bassin aux Nympheas, (1899), which was bought by financier Alan Howard for $43-million in September 2010. The sale involved London’s Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox Gallery and a Panamanian shell company.


To prove conspiracy, the prosecution presented email messages between Bautista and her nephews. But Bautista’s lawyers challenged on appeal the admissibility of the email messages, saying they were not written by Bautista and they were not authenticated.

She was charged along with her nephews Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana and Pongsak Navalaksana with conspiracy in the fourth degree in violation of Penal Law Sec. 105.10(1) in the County of New York and elsewhere from July 2009 to July 30, 2011, with intent to conduct constituting a class B and class C felony, namely, grand larceny in the first degree; grand larceny in the second degree; criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree; criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree and criminal tax fraud in the first degree.  Her nephews are still at large.

Bautista was employed by the government of the Philippines as a Foreign Service Officer assigned to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York from the early 1970s until in or around 1986.  After that she became the New York-based personal secretary of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines. Imelda and husband, Ferdinand, fled the Philippines in 1986 following a special presidential election and popular revolt.

After the fall of Marcos, a significant amount of artwork and other valuables disappeared from the Philippine government property. Some of these properties had been in a townhouse at 13-15 East 66th Street in Manhattan (Philippine Townhouse), which at one point, had housed the Philippine Consulate and Mission to the UN. Imelda converted the Philippine Townhouse to her personal use and decorated it with valuable works of art, furniture and antiques.

Bautista came into possession of the following paintings:

*Claude Monet’s Le Bassin aux Nymphease (also known as Japanese Footbridge Over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny) (1899) (the Water-Lily painting);

* Claude Monet’s L’Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil (also known as L’Eglise a Vetheuil”(1881) (the Vetheuil painting);

* Alfred Sisley’s Langland Bay (1887); and

* Albert Marquet’s Le Cypres de Djenan Sidi Said”(also known as Algerian View) (1946).

Imelda purchased the first three paintings in the 70s at a London gallery and delivered L’Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil and Langland Bay to Malacanang Palace and later shipped to Philippine Townhouse in Manhattan.

Water-Lily, went to Imelda; Algerian View, acquired by Metropolitan Museum in Manila, was shipped to Imelda in New York with several other paintings in 1982.

All the four paintings disappeared in 1986 and ended up in Bautista’s possession.



FILE PHOTO OF VILMA BAUTISTA:  Vilma Bautista emerges from the courthouse after she was convicted last November 2013. (JGL Photograb from Channel 10

FETCHED $43-MILLION: Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphease” (also known as “Japanese Footbridge Over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny”), 1899, (the “Water-Lily”) sold by Vilma Bautista for $43-million. (JGL Photo handout from New York County District Attorney’s Office)

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