May 4, 2006

Treasure seized by Marcos to be shared: US court

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Nearly 10,000 victims of human
rights abuses by former Philippines ruler Ferdinand Marcos'
government should share the $30 million to $40 million that
heirs of a treasure hunter imprisoned by Marcos had sought for
themselves, a U.S. court ruled on Thursday.

Roger Roxas, a locksmith turned treasure hunter, found gold
he claimed to be part of the so-called Yamashita treasure,
named for a Japanese general who during World War Two allegedly
stashed booty from across Asia in the Philippines.

Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965-1986, took it
and had Roxas imprisoned and tortured. In a lawsuit, Roxas'
heirs argued the former ruler's riches could in part be traced
to the gold, and sought compensation from an estimated $35
million to $40 million in a Merrill Lynch account established
by a Marcos shell company.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals held the heirs should be considered part of the
9,539-person class that won a $2 billion award against the
Marcos estate over human rights abuses under his rule.

The decision will allow the class to divide the $35 million
to $40 million, marking the first opportunity for victims of
human rights abuses under Marcos to tap his estate for
compensation, said Robert Swift, the Philadelphia-based lead
attorney for the class.

The lawyer for Roxas' heirs, Dan Cathcart of Los Angeles,
said he is considering an appeal.