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Jury Awards $22 billion in Marcos-Golden Buddha Case

July 20, 1996 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) _ A jury has awarded $22 billion to an American company that claims the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos stole a golden Buddha statue filled with gems from a treasure hunter.

``As far as I know, it is the largest verdict probably in the history of jurisprudence in the world,″ said Daniel Cathcart, attorney for the Atlanta-based Golden Buddha Corp.

But a Marcos family attorney dismissed the award, which a state jury reached in less than five hours of deliberations Friday.

``It’s noncollectible. It’s Monopoly money,″ said attorney James Paul Linn. ``Everything in the Marcos estate is tied up by the Philippine government and has been since 1987. There’s no money there.″

The verdict will be appealed, Linn said.

The case of the golden Buddha centers around treasure hunter Rogelio Roxas’ claim that a treasure, including thousands of bars of gold, was stolen from him after he discovered it in his native Philippines.

Roxas, who died in 1993, said Marcos’ forces imprisoned and tortured him after stealing a gold 3-foot-high Buddha filled with diamonds in 1971.

Roxas, a locksmith, allegedly found the treasure in a tunnel near a hospital outside Baguio City, but when he was released, he found the tunnel empty.

Roxas turned over claims to the treasure to a group of investors that organized as the Golden Buddha Corp. The corporation later filed suit in Hawaii, originally seeking $1 trillion.

Cathcart said the company knows where the Marcos’ assets are will collect the award little by little. Marcos deposited an estimated $475 million in two Swiss bank accounts, and his estate is believed to be worth billions of dollars, much of it amassed illegally.

``This is not a paper money. This is real money and there are assets all around. We know where a lot of them are,″ Cathcart said.

In February a Zurich court recognized The Golden Buddha Corp.’s claim to the Marcos fortune, deciding that Marcos most likely seized the Buddha statue from Roxas.

Marcos died in 1989, three years after fleeing to Hawaii following a popular revolt.