Defense Department investigators probing possible kickbacks involving U.S. military aid to the Philippines are in Hawaii hoping to look at legal papers that former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and his party brought with them into exile.
Sources close to the two-year-old investigation said yesterday that at least one subpoena has been issued in Hawaii in connection with the case since the Marcos party arrived, and that more subpoenas are likely.
The papers reportedly detail complex business arrangements that the investigators hope include the inside story on defense contracts signed by Marcos' former armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Fabian Ver.
Grand juries in Alexandria, Va., and California are probing reports that high officers of the Philippine armed forces received kickbacks and bribes from U.S. defense businesses in return for awarding them lucrative contracts. Sources close to the case say that it involves more than $100 million in contracts, paid for in part by U.S. military aid under the Pentagon's foreign military sales and credits program.
The sources said the "pivotal figure" in the probe is a prominent Filipino businessman, Raymond Moreno, whom investigators believe arranged details of the contracts through three California electronics firms that he set up to do business with the Philippine armed forces.
Moreno, 39, is described by Filipino sources as a high-living resident of Manila's most exclusive suburb, Forbes Park, with a taste for expensive automobiles. One Filipino source said he was "on the fringe of the ruling club" but was close to Ver and to Ver's close associate, Edna Cam Cam, a real estate dealer and socialite who also lives in Forbes Park.
Cam Cam testified last year before the Alexandria grand jury, according to sources close to the probe. Sources in Hawaii said another subpoena was issued pending her expected arrival there from Manila over the weekend. Sources in Washington and Hawaii said the grand jury was also drafting a subpoena for Ver and several other members of Marcos' party, but the Justice Department refused to confirm or deny it.
Moreno allegedly financed and set up the three firms under investigation by the grand juries in order to get military contracts from the U.S. government, sources close to the investigation said. Corporate registration papers filed in California indicate that the firms are owned by a Hong Kong holding company called Golden Assets Ltd., according to a report in the San Jose Mercury-News.
The Virginia grand jury is probing Amworld Inc. of Brisbane, Calif., which was to provide a microwave communications system to the Philippine armed forces under a $17 million contract signed in 1982, sources close to the investigation said. The Defense Department paid $6 million to Amworld but halted payments and began its investigation in 1983, the sources added.
The other two companies receive mail at the Amworld office and have overlapping boards of directors listed with the California state government, according to the Mercury-News. Digital Contractors Inc. got a telephone switching contract in 1983, and Telecom Satellite of America received a radio communications project in 1982, sources close to the Virginia investigation said. In addition, a Philippines-based company that had a subcontract with Amworld to install the equipment in the Philippines, Electronic Specialists Inc., is owned by Moreno and is also under investigation, the sources said.
Moreno's attorney, Thomas A. Wadden, refused to comment on the probe yesterday.