A Philippine court threw out a high-profile, 32-year-old forfeiture case on Monday involving the family of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, citing insufficient evidence to order the return of $3.9 billion of allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
The country's anti-graft court decided in favour of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August, with judges ruling that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed.
The court is trying to recover an estimated $10 billion allegedly siphoned off by Marcos and a family that had lived lavishly during his 20 years in power, 14 of which were ruled under martial law. Wife Imelda was notorious for having thousands of designer shoes.
The case lodged by the Presidential Commission on Good Government had sought the return of 200 billion pesos ($3.93 billion) it said was tied up in equities, numerous local and foreign banks and real estate at home and in the US and UK.
It also included the value of 177 paintings and 42 crates of jewellery worth $9 million.
In a 58-page verdict, the court "acknowledged the atrocities committed during martial law under the Marcos regime and the 'plunder' committed on the country's resources". However, it claimed there was a lack of evidence.
Despite being overthrown in a 1986 revolt and driven into exile, the Marcos family remain a powerful force in the Philippines, with loyalists throughout the bureaucracy and political and business elite.
Imelda was a four-term congresswoman, daughter Imee is currently a senator, as was son and namesake Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who is tipped as a candidate for the presidency in 2022. A relative is the current Philippine ambassador to the US. The family has a powerful ally too in President Rodrigo Duterte too.
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