Philippine Agent Arrested for Trying To Crack Bank Computers
ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ A Philippine government agent tracking assets of the Marcos family has been arrested in Germany for trying to tap into Swiss bank computers, prosecutors said today.
The agent and three alleged accomplices face criminal charges of economic espionage, the Zurich district attorney’s office said in a statement.
Investigators found no evidence an electronic break-in actually happened, the office said.
It added that the government in Manila apparently fell prey to a scam because bank account details provided to the agent by a purported computer hacker seemed to be fake.
The Manila government has been in Swiss courts for five years trying to recover billions of dollars that it claims were illegally funneled out of the Philippines by President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his family and associates before he was ousted in 1986. Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989.
Swiss authorities say they have found about $345 million of Marcos’ money in various bank accounts. Only $16 million has been returned so far.
Switzerland’s highest court ruled in December that Marcos’ assets can be returned to the Philippines only under certain conditions, including the opening of a case against his widow, Imelda, within a year.
The prosecutor’s office said the leader of the attempt to gain access to Swiss computers was Reiner Jacobi, an Australian acting on behalf of Manila’s Presidential Commission on Good Government. It said he was arrested in Munich, Germany, on a Swiss warrant Thursday.
Jacobi, unlike his three helpers, also faces charges of illegal activity for a foreign state. The district attorney’s office said it asked for his extradition.
Names of the other suspects were withheld.
The Manila commission described Jacobi as its European representative and a consultant on security and intelligence affairs, the district attorney’s office said. It said he was asked to verify the existence and balances of alleged Marcos bank account.
Jacobi and his helpers gave the commission data on two accounts at Credit Suisse bank in Zurich and on gold holdings at another big Swiss bank obtained from a person thought to be a specialist at cracking bank computers, the office said.
But it said: ″The Philippine government most likely has fallen prey to fraud. The alleged ‘hacker’ is reported to have provided fictitious account balances.″ The statement did not elaborate.