Ongpin sues BSP official, claims financial losses


Posted at Jan 10 2013 05:14 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2013 01:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Businessman Roberto V. Ongpin on Thursday filed a criminal complaint against Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla with the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly violating the anti-graft law.

In his complaint, Ongpin blamed Espenilla for signing the Anti Money Laundering Council resolution that sought a freeze order on his bank accounts. He said the subsequent freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals on his bank accounts caused the value of shares in his companies to plunge, as well as damaging his reputation and ruining a potential $1 billion deal.

Ongpin said Espenilla, who was then acting BSP governor and chairman of the AMLC, "caused my reputation the gravest damage by his signing an ex-parte petition with the Court of Appeals that my bank accounts be frozen."

He said Espenilla violated the anti-graft law, which covers officials who cause undue injury through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.

"Mr. Espenilla acted recklessly and in clear bad faith when he signed the AMLC resolution and applied for a freeze order against my accounts," he said.

Ongpin claimed Espenilla earlier cleared his transactions with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) during the Senate hearings in 2011. But in November last year, the deputy governor signed the AMLC petition for a freeze on Ongpin's accounts, saying they could be holding proceeds of now allegedly behest loans from the DBP. The freeze covered about 100 accounts owned by Ongpin and companies and persons linked to him.

Financial losses

As a result of the freeze order, the former Trade minister claimed the value of his shares in his listed companies dropped significantly after the freeze order was extended for six months or until June 26, 2013.

Nearly P9 billion in the market value of his shareholdings in Philweb Corp, Alphaland Corp., Atok-Big Wedge Co. Inc., IBM Communications Corp. and Philippine Bank of Communications were wiped out.

His total shareholdings in the said companies fell 16.77% to P44.28 billion as of end 2012.  Prior to the freeze order, Ongpin's shares in the 5 companies were valued at P53.2 billion.

For instance, shares of Alphaland fell from P27.70 to P19.50 as of year-end, while Atok-Big Wedge shares dropped from P22.10 to P19.90 as of end-2012. 

"Other than the freeze order, there has been no other significant development that would have caused the value of the stock of these companies to 'drop like a rock' across-the-board. The blame lies squarely at the doorstep of Mr. Espenilla (for signing the AMLC resolution) is underscored by the fact that the PSE experienced almost record highs in terms of profits during the last quarter of 2012," Ongpin said.

Aborted deal

Ongpin, a dealmaker, also claimed the freeze order caused "irreparable injury" as it scared away potential investors.

"I was in the middle of organizing investments (close to $1 billion in total value) with three major prospective investors. However, because of the news regarding the freeze order, these investors suddenly withdrew," he said, but declined to give details of the said deal.

Earlier, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas defended Espenilla against the charges hurled by Ongpin. The BSP expressed concern that Ongpin was "singling out" Espenilla, when the AMLC resolution was also approved by the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Insurance Commission.

Ongpin had also said he will also file criminal and civil cases against AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino over the freeze order.