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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Estrada case: Bank accounts frozen
Joseph Estrada in court on Monday
Mr Estrada came to office pledging to end corruption
A Philippine court has frozen some bank accounts linked to former President Joseph Estrada that prosecutors say hold $220,000 (11 million pesos) of alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Mr Estrada is accused of having illegally acquired a personal fortune of more than $80m while in office, and of using an alias to hide his ownership of a bank account.

He is being tried for economic plunder, a crime punishable by lethal injection.

Mr Estrada appeared on Monday before the Sandiganbayan court in Manila, during a pre-trial hearing aimed at speeding up the trial by agreeing on certain terms and evidence to be presented.

It was his fourth such appearance.

Frozen funds

In the same court in July, Mr Estrada refused to enter a plea and the court automatically entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. He has also appeared at a pre-trial hearing on the lesser charge of perjury, to which the court also entered a not guilty plea.

Police stand in front of anti-Estrada demonstrators
Security remained tight outside the court
There was tight security outside the court on Monday but no immediate reports of violence. Handfuls of supporters and critics of the former president protested outside - a small crowd compared to earlier hearings.

"This is becoming a routine," said Ed Urieta, chief sheriff at the court. "There is less security now, but it is still considerable."

The funds ordered frozen were held in six savings and two current accounts of Equitable PCIBank in the name of Yolanda Ricaforte, a women who prosecutors allege collected illegal payments for the ousted president. Ms Ricaforte is on the run from police and is thought to be in the United States.

Mr Estrada was ousted in January during a bloodless military-backed popular revolt, which began after the collapse of his trial in the country's Senate on charges of corruption and abuse of office.

Supporters of Mr Estrada outside the court
It was a smaller crowd than usual

He was arrested in April, along with his son Jose Ejercito, and a former presidential lawyer.

The trial is scheduled to start on 29 October. The defence said on Monday that Mr Estrada would testify.

Mr Estrada, a former film star, was elected in 1998 pledging to fight poverty and stamp out corruption. He had one of the largest margins in Philippine political history.

The pre-trial hearing is to continue all week, but Mr Estrada has chosen not to attend it.

See also:

10 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada refuses to plead
27 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada refuses to plead
20 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada to stay in hospital
14 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada 'at risk in prison'
21 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo's Estrada prison 'deal' criticised
02 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines president widens crackdown
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