Imelda Marcos, the wife of deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, used New York bank accounts under an apparently fictitious name to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the country and finance expensive shopping trips in the United States and Europe, according to documents found in the Malacanang presidential palace.
The records illustrate how a modus operandi evolved from laundering money through the accounts of friends to gradually taking over the accounts through a fictitious name.
They show that checks were drawn from those accounts to pay for items from exclusive boutiques such as Giorgio's in Beverly Hills and Nina Ricci in Paris, where a 1970 bill for "Madame Imelda Marcos" came to $13,200 for 22 dresses and coats.
The documents show that the accounts were opened at First National City Bank in New York in 1968, during Marcos' first term as president. Marcos was elected in 1965 on an anticorruption platform that stressed national development, eliminating wasteful expenditures and arresting capital flight.
However, the documents show, his wife was engaged in transfers of funds overseas and extensive personal spending early in the Marcoses' 20-year stay at the Malacanang Palace. Previously, the origins of most of the documents that allegedly indicate corrupt practices had been attributed to the 1972-81 period when Marcos ruled under martial law.
There is no evidence in the available First National City Bank documents that Marcos himself was involved in the transactions.
Efforts to reach the Marcos party at the U.S. Air Force Base in Honolulu to question them about the transactions were unsuccessful.
The documents include letters to and from New York offices of First National City Bank (now called Citibank), bank statements, canceled checks, receipts for purchases of expensive designer clothes and accessories, handwritten accounts of balances -- and a checkbook containing payment records and three unused checks.
The documents were found in a pile of papers in the Malacanang ceremonial hall shortly after the Marcoses, their aides and palace servants had been evacuated aboard two U.S. helicopters two weeks ago. The palace, a nearby administrative building and the grounds outside were littered with thousands of documents pulled from Malacanang's voluminous files, either by Marcos' last defenders or by rampaging crowds that stormed the compound after his departure.
Many of the papers were trampled by the crowds, some were burned in a bonfire apparently started by loyalists behind the palace, and others wound up in the Pasig River, which flows in back of the Malacanang living quarters and divides the palace grounds from a park and military complex on the river's southern bank.
The records of the First National City Bank accounts form a tiny part of a "paper trail" left behind when the Marcoses hastily fled. The paper trail includes records for relatively minor purchases valued in hundreds of dollars as well as major expenditures in the tens of millions. Documents seen by The Washington Post range from a $70 million purchase contract for a Manhattan office tower to a request from the Philippine mission to the United Nations for repayment of "$90 for air freight charges of Steuben glass for Imelda."
While the First National City Bank records pale by comparison with the major transactions of later years, they offer a case study of methods apparently used by Imelda Marcos to channel funds overseas and make purchases and investments without associating her name with them. According to U.S. and Philippine investigators trying to unravel the Marcoses' "hidden wealth," the family used various fronts to disguise huge investments overseas.
The involvement of Mrs. Marcos in the First National City Bank accounts evidently began through two close friends, Dr. Daniel Vazquez and his wife, Maria Luisa. Dr. Vazquez at the time ran a clinic in Manila, and Maria Luisa Vazquez, a daughter of the prominent Madrigal family, was known as one of the "blue ladies," a reference to the color of their clothes, who helped Imelda Marcos campaign for her husband. According to former Marcos associates, the couple were frequent visitors to the presidential palace, and Mrs. Vazquez sometimes accompanied Mrs. Marcos on overseas trips.
Initially, according to the records, Mrs. Vazquez personally paid some of Mrs. Marcos' bills, apparently with funds supplied by Malacanang Palace.
According to canceled checks and receipts from one of Imelda Marcos' shopping trips in June 1968, several purchases for Mrs. Marcos in such exclusive boutiques as Giorgio's in Beverly Hills were paid for by Mrs. Vazquez with checks drawn on First National City Bank account number 05069031, which she held jointly with her husband. One of the expenditures is a transfer of funds of $5,000 from the account to "Dr. Dean Shambers" of the urology department of Walter Reed Hospital in Washington on Sept. 30, 1968. The records show that purchases and various "expenses" covered by the account from May to November 1968 came to $21,817.82.
[A spokesman for Walter Reed Hospital yesterday said a Dr. Dean Schamber was assistant chief of urology in the late 1960s but had no further information. Schamber could not be reached for comment. A woman who answered the telephone at a residence in Hawaii yesterday and identified herself as his daughter said her father had provided medical services to the Marcos family in the late 1960s.]
A handwritten "bank reconciliation" dated Nov. 14, 1968, lists an "original deposit" of $720.40 in the account by its holders, Daniel and Maria Luisa Vazquez. Other Malacanang records, however, show that the account had a "starting" balance of $50,000.
Also dated Nov. 14, 1968, is a carbon copy of a letter addressed to Francis X. Kannar, assistant manager of First National City Bank at 55 Wall Street, New York. It requests that the name of "Fernanda Vazquez" be added to Daniel and Maria Luisa Vazquez' joint savings account no. 0010086231. The letter, written on stationery of "Daniel Vazquez, M.D.," says that $242,130 is being credited to the savings account and asks the bank to advise when Fernanda Vazquez can begin using it. The letter is signed by all three parties.
A separate, undated letter, also signed by all three, requests that the savings account "be changed to the name of Fernanda Vazquez only." It adds that only her signature "is to be honored for any deposit, withdrawal or transaction for this account." A copy of a Jan. 30, 1969, reply from Kannar to Dr. Vazquez confirms that the change was made.
A copy of a separate letter dated Jan. 22, 1969, to Dr. Vazquez from Joseph Hatter, assistant manager of a First National City Bank branch at 640 Fifth Ave., New York, shows that the title of the checking account, no. 05069031, also was changed to include Fernanda Vazquez, and then to eliminate Daniel and Maria Luisa Vazquez.
The number of the new savings account in the name of Fernanda Vazquez was changed to 0011984578, and later (in June 1970) to 0012025993, according to the records. A handwritten notation at the bottom of a June 11, 1970, letter from Kannar to Fernanda Vazquez gives the June 10 balance in the new savings account as $98,588.43.
A spokesman for Citibank in New York said the bank would have no comment on the accounts of clients. The spokesman confirmed that the two bank officials whose names appeared on the documents worked at the bank at the time.
Who is Fernanda Vazquez?
Acquaintances of Daniel and Maria Luisa Vazquez, and a domestic employe who answered the phone at their residence, said they had never heard of her.
"That's a private matter," said Dr. Vazquez when asked in a telephone interview Saturday whether he knew her. Pressed further, he said, "It may be one of my relatives." Asked why he seemed unsure, he replied, "I have many relatives."
Vazquez was then informed that his name, his wife's and that of Fernanda Vazquez were found on bank records at Malacanang palace. "I know why they were in Malacanang," he said of the records, but they involved something that "happened a long time ago." Asked if Fernanda Vazquez were a pseudonym for Imelda Marcos, he replied, "I really don't recall" and declined to discuss the matter further.
That Imelda Marcos and Fernanda Vazquez are in fact the same person is obvious from scrutiny of the documents and from comparisons of handwriting.
On the back of a page of note paper bearing the letterhead, "Office of the President of the Philippines," a notation below an accounting of 1969 bank balances gives these particulars: "Fernanda Vazquez -- Female, Married, Filipina. Date of Birth -- July 2, 1929, Manila. Father's Name -- Orestes Lopez. Husband's Name -- Fernando Vazquez."
Aside from the oddity that both husband and wife should have such similar first names -- both closely resembling Ferdinand, the first name of former president Marcos -- there are other unlikely coincidences. Mrs. Marcos was born Imelda Romualdez on July 2, 1929, in Leyte province. Her father's middle name was Orestes.
In addition, the signatures and handwriting of "Fernanda Vazquez" match handwriting samples of Imelda Marcos. Moreover, the available records show, two checks drawn on the account of and signed by "Fernanda Vazquez" were used to pay a Nov. 17, 1970, bill of Mrs. Marcos from Paris designer Nina Ricci totaling $13,200.
Other documents show periods of heavy and mysterious spending.
The Malacanang records include seven canceled checks totaling $66,000 and dated from May 1 to 14, 1969. All are signed by "Fernanda Vazquez" and made payable to cash, with a note on the back of each reading, "pay to the order of Republic National Bank N.Y."
Republic National Bank is a federally chartered bank in Manhattan. According to New York State banking sources, bank owner Edmund Safra is a Filipino.
There is no indication in the records of the source of the funds in the First National City Bank accounts.