Philippines Chases After Van Gogh, Picasso in Marcos Wealth Sale

  • Government using social media to try to find dictator's loot
  • Christie's, Sotheby's vying to auction off Marcos jewelry

The Philippines will try to recover 200 pieces of fine art once owned by late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and plans to auction millions of dollars worth of his wife’s jewelry as the government seeks to use the family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth to raise money for the state.

The government is turning to the Internet and social media to hasten the chase, said Andrew de Castro, a commissioner at the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which is tasked with tracking down the loot. The agency will set up a website next month to seek tips to locate the paintings, which include works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso, said De Castro.

The search for Marcos’ art collection comes after the Philippines brought in Christie’s International Plc and Sotheby’s to appraise the jewelry collection of Imelda Marcos, which includes a rare pink diamond. The two are vying for the contract to auction off more than 700 pieces of jewelry worth millions of dollars before the six-year term of President Benigno Aquino ends on June 30, 2016.

Pink Diamond

The Marcoses allegedly stole $5 billion to $10 billion from their people, according to a joint United Nations and World Bank report. President Corazon Aquino, the current president’s late mother, set up the agency to chase Marcos’s wealth when she took over in 1986 after the dictator’s downfall. The agency recovered about $700 million from the Swiss bank accounts controlled by the Marcos family and has kept up the search for more loot.

Aside from the pink diamond, the jewelry collections include some sapphires and emeralds, said Brett O’Connor, Sotheby’s senior director. The range has some “wonderful items” and the pink diamond is “a lovely old stone,” he said.

The collection had previously been valued at between $5 million and $8 million by an appraisal in the 1990s, and De Castro said the value had multiplied significantly since then.

Imelda, the former first lady and now an incumbent member of Congress, left 3,000 thousand pairs of shoes, a bulletproof bra and bottles of perfume at the presidential palace in Manila when the family and their associates fled in February 1986. Her husband ruled the country for more than 20 years and died in exile in Honolulu in 1989.

— With assistance by Cecilia Yap

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