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Graft probe seeks Duterte accounts

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    Agence France-Presse

Manila, Philippines | Thu, September 28, 2017 | 09:32 pm
 Graft probe seeks Duterte accounts President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday morning arrived in Malacañang less than two hours before he takes his oath as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines. (RTVM’S Twitter page via Inquirer.net/-)

The Philippine central bank's money laundering watchdog said Thursday it had received a request from a special anti-corruption prosecutor to investigate President Rodrigo Duterte's finances.

A senator had asked the special prosecutor last year to file charges against then-presidential candidate Duterte, accusing him of having bank deposits worth 211 million pesos ($4.1 million) and failing to disclose it as required by law.

Duterte, who later won a landslide victory in the elections, has denied the allegations.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said in a statement Thursday it received a request from the ombudsman in early September to initiate an investigation.

The council said the request concerned information provided by Senator Antonio Trillanes to the ombudsman "regarding the alleged bank accounts of President Rodrigo Duterte".

"We have yet to evaluate the request, and the initiation of an investigation, as well as the release of any report on the subject will depend on such evaluation," the AMLC added.

The Philippines has a strict bank secrecy law and only the courts, as well as the AMLC, are allowed to obtain account details for the purpose of criminal investigations or court trials.

The ombudsman's office has not responded to AFP's request for comment.

But Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang told ABS-CBN television this week that the agency has been quietly investigating Duterte and his family's bank transactions since last year.

On Thursday, Trillanes hailed the ombudsman's investigation, saying that even though the president is immune from criminal prosecution while in office, he could still be removed from office through impeachment.

"The results of this investigation could now be reported out and be used for a basis of an impeachment complaint," Trillanes told AFP.

The senator alleged Duterte embezzled government funds and engaged in other illegal activities during his lengthy stint as mayor of the southern city of Davao prior to becoming president, which Duterte denies.

All government officials including the Philippine president are required by law to make public a statement of their assets and liabilities each year as a means to deter corruption.

Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Thursday the president was aware of the ombudsman's investigation.

"He respects the internal processes and if at all they (graft prosecutors) really truly have substantial evidence then he -- we trust their impartiality on the matter," Abella said.

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