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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 07:50 GMT
Estrada testifies over 'bribe attempt'
Former Philippines President Joseph Estrada takes an oath before testifying
Mr Estrada testified before the Senate
Former Philippines President Joseph Estrada testified on Tuesday that he was offered a bribe three years ago but turned it down.

Mr Estrada said the offer appeared to come on behalf of an Argentine company bidding for a government contract.

Mr Estrada, who was brought down by popular protests two years ago, is himself being tried on charges of plunder.

Sir, $14m has been reserved for the Office of the President

Estrada testimony
Tuesday's testimony was unrelated to his case.

He told the Senate that a businessman approached him in 1999 in connection with a bid for a government contract by Argentina's Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona SA (Impsa).

"Sir, $14m has been reserved for the Office of the President," Mr Estrada said he had been told by Mark Jimenez.

Mr Jimenez later became Mr Estrada's adviser on Latin American affairs and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2001.

Extradited

He was extradited to the United States in December to face charges of fraud and tax evasion.

Mr Estrada turned down the offer from Mr Jimenez, who he assumed was representing Impsa, he said.

Supporters of former President Joseph Estrada rally in Manila on Tuesday
Estrada supporters rallied as he testified
The $14m "was not needed. The contract cannot have a government guarantee," he said he had told Mr Jimenez.

He told the Senate he had not considered it a bribe offer at the time.

The contract for Impsa to repair a hydroelectric plant was approved by the government of President Gloria Arroyo shortly after Mr Estrada was toppled.

Her government has said the contract was legal.

Hospital

Mr Estrada was taken from a military hospital to the Senate by police convoy under helicopter guard for his testimony.

He has been confined to the military hospital during his own trial due to arthritis.

Prosecutors allege the former president stole nearly $80m during his time in office.

Mr Estrada has denied the charges.

Plunder is a crime which is punishable by death in the Philippines - but officials have said that if Mr Estrada is convicted his life will probably be spared.


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