NEW YORK, Nov 20, 2012 (AFP) – The former personal secretary to Imelda Marcos, wife of deposed Philippines ruler Ferdinand Marcos, was charged Tuesday in New York in an alleged conspiracy to sell a Monet painting that had belonged to the first lady.
Vilma Bautista, 74, was one of three people accused of “illegally conspiring to possess and sell valuable works of art acquired by” Imelda Marcos, and “keeping the proceeds for themselves,” the Manhattan district attorney DA’s office said.
They are also accused of seeking to hide the gains from the US tax authorities.
The Monet, which sold for $32 million in 2010, was part of Imelda Marcos’ hoard of artworks and other luxuries accumulated during her husband’s rule, which was brought down in 1986. The Philippines government moved to recover the property in the aftermath of the revolution, but much of it vanished.
“A significant amount of artwork and other valuables disappeared from Philippine government property, including from the Philippine Consulate townhouse in Manhattan,” the DA’s office said.
Beginning in 2009, Bautista and her two nephews allegedly began trying to sell the Monet water lily, “Le Bassin aux Nympheas,” and three other valuable works that the Philippines government was trying to repossess.
They succeeded with the Monet, selling it to a London gallery and dividing the $32 million, with Bautista “keeping the largest share of the money herself,” prosecutors said.