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Saturday, 27 January, 2001, 09:27 GMT
Philippine customs seize cash shipments
Estrada's residence in Greenhills, a neighborhood of San Juan in Manila
Estrada has remained in seclusion in his Manila home
Airport authorities in the Philippines have seized $11m worth of cash, amid allegations that former President Joseph Estrada was trying to transfer assets overseas.


[The two banks] are regular shippers, but because of the news that we received, we are holding these temporarily for verification.

Customs official
The cash - in more than 20 sealed bags weighing nearly 300kg (650 pounds) - was being sent to Hong Kong by the Bank of America and Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, reports said.

Officials said such shipments were common, but they decided to act after a citizens' group had raised the alarm that Mr Estrada could be trying to ship money out.

estrada
Estrada now faces a criminal investigation
"We are holding [the money] temporarily for verification," customs official Tess Roque told ABS-CBN television.

Mr Estrada - who was removed from office by popular pressure at the weekend after an inconclusive impeachment trial - has been accused of acquiring millions of dollars by illegal means.

Prior shipments

A Bank of America spokesman said it could account for the $4m shipment and that it was a legitimate transaction.

But a citizens' watchdog, Volunteers against Crime and Corruption, said they still had his suspicions that Mr Estrada - or his associates - were behind the cash shipments.

Protesters outside a Citibank branch in Manila
Protesters picketed a Citibank branch to stop Estrada withdrawing money
"There is a possibility that this is ill-gotten wealth," spokesman Homobono Adaza said.

"Who will bring so much money out of the country at this time?"

The group said an informant had told them a large shipment would be made on Friday and said $16.2m had already been flown out in three shipments earlier this week.

Earlier this week, dozens of protesters surrounded the Citibank branch near Mr Estrada's home to prevent him from withdrawing money.

The government has also ordered Citibank to freeze Mr Estrada's bank account.

'Simple' lifestyle

Arroyo
Gloria Arroyo: Appeal for honest lifestyle
Earlier on Friday, the new President Gloria Arroyo swore in half her cabinet, ordering members to adopt a simple lifestyle following the downfall of her predecessor in a massive corruption scandal.

She made members to sign a code of conduct that included showing "respect for others", living simply and focusing on the poor.

Reports said Mrs Arroyo told cabinet members to avoid business transactions involving relatives, and banned her own family from government business.

She also ordered the sale of luxury cars that bureaucrats were given under Mr Estrada, with the proceeds going to public coffers.

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See also:

26 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo gets tough with new cabinet
25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo dismisses coup threats
25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines coffers 'empty'
23 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada banned from leaving Philippines
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
World leaders welcome Arroyo
21 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo moves to bolster economy
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