Prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Renato C. Corona, the chief justice of the Philippines, presented evidence on Monday that he had deposited $28.7 million into various bank accounts.
According to financial documents presented by the prosecution, Corona maintains 82 dollar-denominated accounts in five banks in the Philippines.
From April 2003 to December 2011, incoming transactions in the chief justice’s accounts, including deposits and bank transfers, totalled $28,740,497.93, the documents showed. This was when Corona was earning less than $935 per month as a Supreme Court justice.
“It is the smoking gun,” Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, said of the disclosure. “For all practical purposes, the trial is over. Even if the chief justice testifies, it is unlikely he will be able to explain this.”
Corona was impeached in December by the Philippine House of Representatives. He is being tried by the Senate, which will decide if he is guilty of using his position to enrich himself and delivering biased decisions. If convicted, he faces removal from office.
Corona did not comment on Monday, but he has previously denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors rested their case on February 28, but were unable to access Corona’s dollar accounts because of strict Philippine secrecy laws regarding bank deposits in foreign currencies.
The account information was allowed to be entered as evidence on Monday because of a provision in the secrecy laws that grants the Anti-Money Laundering Council, a semiautonomous Philippine government agency, access to bank records related to suspicious accounts.
Conchita Carpio-Morales, the ombudsman of the Philippines, investigated the bank accounts in coordination with the council. In an odd twist, Corona’s lawyers called Carpio-Morales to the stand on Monday to refute news reports of the accounts. Her testimony produced the opposite result: she confirmed the news accounts and produced the records indicating the $28.7 million in deposits.
“That was the biggest blunder of the impeachment trial,” Casiple said.
President Benigno S. Aquino III, who was elected in May 2010, campaigned on the promise of making anticorruption efforts the centerpiece of his administration. His campaign for good governance has been cited as a crucial factor in the country’s improving economy. The government took what it called a major step against corruption in November, when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested on charges of tampering with the results of congressional elections in 2007. In late December, she was also charged with corruption related to a $329 million contract with a Chinese company to install a national broadband network.
Corona was Arroyo’s chief of staff before she appointed him to the Supreme Court in 2002.
Two days after Aquino won the presidential election, Arroyo elevated Corona to chief justice, a move that Aquino and his supporters contend was intended to derail efforts to develop corruption cases against Arroyo and others in her administration. -By FLOYD WHALEY