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U.S. Subpoenas Gen. Ver in Aid Kickback Probe

March 13, 1986|RONALD J. OSTROW and JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Pentagon investigators have subpoenaed Gen. Fabian C. Ver, former chief of the Philippine armed forces, in a federal grand jury investigation of possible kickbacks on U.S. military aid to the Philippines, The Times learned Wednesday.

The subpoena, served Tuesday on Ver at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii by agents of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, is the first official indication that U.S. authorities have an interest in possible criminal actions by the controversial Ver.

However, sources familiar with the investigation, being conducted by a grand jury based in Alexandria, Va., declined to say whether Ver is regarded as a target of the inquiry. They did say that no information developed by the investigation, under way for more than a year, directly involves former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos or his family.

Marcos Kept General

Marcos had balked at bowing to Reagan Administration pressure to permanently remove Ver, one of his closest associates, from his command after Ver was acquitted in the 1983 murder of Philippine opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., husband of new Philippine President Corazon Aquino.

The New York Times has reported that the grand jury is trying to determine whether payments have been made to high-ranking Philippine officials in connection with military contracts worth more than $100 million and financed by the Pentagon.

The Los Angeles Times was told that at least part of that case involves a company known as Amworld, Inc., of Brisbane, Calif., near San Francisco.

Amworld won a multimillion-dollar Pentagon contract in 1982 to set up a microwave communications system for the Philippine armed forces, but payments reportedly were halted and an investigation was begun.

Amworld also has been involved in export and import operations, according to an employee, who said Wednesday that she had been hired to answer the phones. "Right now, they don't do anything," she said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, said Wednesday that the U.S. Customs Service has agreed to provide the subcommittee with about 1,500 documents dealing with Marcos family holdings.

The subcommittee requested the documents for its investigation of allegations that Marcos and his wife, Imelda, diverted millions of dollars in U.S. aid to buy and control four commercial office buildings in New York and a 14-acre Long Island estate.

In a related development, the State Department said that Jovito Salonga, chairman of a Philippine commission seeking return of Marcos' assets, will meet with department and White House officials after he arrives in Washington on Sunday.

Official to Testify

Severina Rivera, a lawyer for the Philippine commission in Washington, said that Salonga also will testify about Marcos' U.S. properties as "the star witness" at a court hearing in Manhattan on March 19.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Eliott Wilk has scheduled the hearing to determine whether to extend a restraining order he issued last week freezing the sale or transfer of the four buildings in Manhattan and the estate on Long Island owned by holding companies linked to Marcos' wife.

Rivera said she expects Salonga to bring additional documents about the Marcos' holdings, including stocks, bonds and gold bullion, that have been uncovered since the former first family fled Manila on Feb. 25.

Interviewed at Los Angeles International Airport, where he stopped en route to San Francisco on Wednesday night, Salonga said that even if the United States had refused to turn over the customs records, "we have enough documents in our possession to prove the link between Marcos, his cronies and the property acquired in the United States."

He refused to discuss estimates that have placed the amount of Marcos' hidden wealth at between $5 billion and $10 billion, saying, "We have only evaluated 15% to 20% of the evidence so far." However, he said, he believes that more of the wealth has been secreted in countries outside the United States than here.

Salonga said that Marcos' elder daughter, Imee Marcos Manotoc, was partly responsible for monitoring the family's U.S. acquisitions. She was "one of the nominees," Salonga said.

Times staff writers Bob Baker in Los Angeles and Bob Drogin in New York contributed to this story.

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