WASHINGTON- The US Federal Bureau of Investigation Friday in Washington DC announced that a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a nine-count indictment earlier today against Bettina Balderrama, a/k/a Bonnie Balderrama, 57, of Manila, Philippines.
“The indictment charges that Balderrama brokered approximately $15 million worth of fraudulent loan transactions between companies located in the Philippines and U.S. lending banks, in which the Ex-Im Bank acted as guarantor or insurer.” A Statement issued by the US Department of Justice released by the FBI says.
The Statement went on to say that the. “Ex-Im Bank, an independent agency of the United States, is the official export credit agency of the United States and issues loan guaranties and insurance to U.S. banks on behalf of creditworthy foreign companies for the purpose of purchasing U.S. goods. Once the Ex-Im Bank issues a loan guaranty or insurance policy, if the foreign borrower defaults on its loan repayments to a lending bank, the Ex-Im Bank pays the amount of the outstanding loan to the lending bank.”
Balderrama was described as a “loan broker from the Philippines has been charged in connection with a $15 million scheme to defraud the Export-Import Bank of the United States (the Ex-Im Bank),” Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jeffrey A. Taylor announced today.
According to the indictment, between December 2001 and October 2004 Balderrama identified companies in the Philippines that wanted to borrow money to purchase U.S. goods and lending banks in the United States that would lend money for the purpose of buying U.S. goods. Balderrama then assisted the borrowers in executing loan agreements with the lending banks and in obtaining loan guaranties or insurance policies from the Ex-Im Bank as part of the loan agreements.
The indictment alleges that Balderrama recruited a U.S. exporter, Cristina Song, for the purpose of purchasing U.S. goods and shipping those goods to the Philippine borrowers, and then instructed Song to prepare false shipping documents and submit those false documents to the lending banks to make it appear that she had purchased and shipped goods.
The indictment alleges that Song did not purchase the goods called for in the loan agreements, and instead misappropriated a majority of the loan proceeds and sent large portions of those proceeds to bank accounts owned and controlled by Balderrama and other foreign bank accounts as directed by Balderrama.
Balderrama has been charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit offenses against the United States; three counts of submitting false statements to the Ex-Im Bank; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; three counts of money laundering; and one count of obstructing a proceeding before a department and agency of the United States.
If convicted, Balderrama faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge; five years in prison on each of the false statement charges; 20 years in prison on the money laundering conspiracy charge; 10 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges; and five years in prison on the obstruction charge. The indictment also seeks forfeiture from Balderrama of the misappropriated loan proceeds.
Song, 50, of Whittier, Calif., an alleged co-conspirator of Balderrama, entered a guilty plea on Nov. 16, 2007, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before Judge Richard W. Roberts, to a two-count information charging her with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of mail fraud. Song was sentenced on Oct. 2, 2008, to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and was ordered to forfeit $300,000 and pay restitution of more than $12 million to the Ex-Im Bank.
This case is part of a broader investigation into an $80 million scheme to defraud the Ex-Im Bank between November 1999 and December 2005. To date, eight individuals-Song, Daniel Curran, Edward Chua, David Villongco, Robert Delgado, Edward Javier, Jaime Galvez, and Carlos Serrano-have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial of charges related to their involvement in the fraud scheme.
Curran was sentenced on April 23, 2008, to 41 months in prison; Chua was sentenced on May 14, 2008, to 37 months in prison; Villongco was sentenced on Feb. 29, 2008, to 33 months in prison; Delgado was sentenced on Oct. 5, 2007, to 24 months in prison;
Javier was sentenced on July 18, 2008, to six months in prison; and Galvez was sentenced on Jan. 7, 2008, to 12 months in prison. Serrano was convicted by a federal jury in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 2008, of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.
Serrano’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2009.
In addition, four other individuals-Marilyn Ong, Ildefonso Ong, Nelson Ti and Joseph Tirona-have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for their alleged involvement in the scheme.
The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Hank Bond Walther of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Michael K. Atkinson, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. These cases are being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Los Angeles Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Philippines: Arroyo Visit Reinvigorates 400-Year Ties With Spain
Mike Cohen, Pacific News Center Correspondent 05.DEC.075:19 p.m.
|President Arroyo, escorted by Spanish King Juan Carlos I, troops the line of the Royal Honor Guards during the arrival honors and welcome ceremony for the President at the Palacio Real de el Pardo Front Courtyard|
Manila - Philippine-Spanish relations have moved forward in the wake of a four-day state visit to Madrid by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"Spain has always defended my government, and once again, we are seeking the support of the Spanish government and business community to help us realize our vision of a modern Philippines in 20 years," the President said during a meeting with the leaders of Spain's Senate at the Plaza
de la Marina Espanola.
Escorted through Madrid's traffic-heavy streets by a contingent of Palace guards, national security officers and members of the municipal police, the President met with Spain's congressional leaders after the welcome ceremonies for her at the Palacio Real de El Pardo. The President, who speaks fluent Spanish, said "Our four-day state visit here reaffirms the deep historical, cultural, economic and
political ties between the Philippines and Spain."
She informed the Spanish legislators that she had directed government colleges and universities in the Philippines to reintegrate the Spanish language in their curricula. President Arroyo expressed her appreciation for the assistance Spain has extended to her administration in the fight against terrorism, particularly in Mindanao.
She said that now is the best time for Spanish business leaders to invest in the Philippines, particularly in renewable energy development, tourism and agriculture. President Arroyo also informed the Spanish legislators that through the initiative of Sen. Edgardo Angara, a member of her official delegation, she has declared June 30 of every year as the Fil-Hispano Day as a tribute to the shared history, values and traditions of the two nations.
Spanish Senate President Senor Don Francisco Rojo presented to President Arroyo a Senate Medal and a copy of the Atlas of the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish Overseas Territories, while Senor Manuel Marin Gonzales, president of Spain's Chamber of Deputies, presented her a Congressional Medal and a copy of the Spanish Constitution of 1812.
Rojo said the Philippines is a country to which the Spanish people "feel so much sentiment."
He echoed the President's previous statement that economic prosperity can only be achieved in a peaceful and stable environment, citing Spain's own experience with terrorism.
The Spanish Senate leader also expressed gratitude to the Philippine Senate's ratification of the Treaty on the Exchange of Sentenced Prisoners (TESP) between the two countries.
From the Senate, the President proceeded to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Plaza de Lealtad to lay a wreath before her private lunch with their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, the official residence of the King and Queen.
Spain: "Bullish on RP investments"
"The business community in is bullish on the Philippines as some companies here have already signified their interests in investing in the country," according to Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila.
Favila, who is among those accompanying Arroyo in her four-day state visit to Spain, said he had talked with executives of two business groups here who are planning to invest in shipping, food and beverage industries in the Philippines. "It's still exploratory but they have signified their interests," Favila said.
The San Miguel Corp. in Spain said they are interested to develop with San Miguel Philippines its new non-alcoholic beer. Another venture, the CMA-CGM, the world's third largest container shipping line, is keen on pouring its money into the Batangas Port. The full development of Batangas Port is needed to carry out the President's super regions economic grouping, as it plays a critical role in the economic and social development of the forelands such as Mindoro. Also, it is the primary port in the area used in the transfer of goods such as agricultural produce that includes copra, cement and logs to the market. The Batangas Port is also an important link in the President's Nautical Highway project. Favila said more meetings are scheduled with Spanish business leaders in a move to lure more investments.
Royal Honors for Arroyo
President Arroyo had a taste of the pomp and pageantry of royalty during the arrival ceremony given in her honor by Spanish King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia on Monday at the sprawling courtyard of the Palacio Real del El Pardo.
The President, dressed in a red coat paired with beige pump shoes, and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo were met by the King and Queen at the entrance to the Royal Palace.
Alighting from a vintage Rolls Royce, the President, the First Gentleman and the Royal Couple engaged in an animated conversation before trooping the line of the Palace guardsmen.
The band then played the national anthem of the Philippines, followed by the national anthem of Spain and the traditional 21-gun salute accorded to visiting heads of state.
After the introduction of her delegation to the King and Queen, the President and the First Gentleman were ushered to the Tribune of Honor where they viewed the parade of the Royal Honor Guards.
The welcome ceremony for the President and the First Gentleman, which lasted 40 minutes, followed the tradition of the royalties in honoring their guests, complete with guardsmen in elaborate costumes and horse-riding Palace guards.
The President arrived in Madrid Sunday afternoon for a four-day state visit to Spain upon the invitation of the King and Queen.
The President and the First Gentleman are staying at the Palacio Real de El Pardo, an old royal hunting lodge dating back to the period of the Hapsburgs and Franceso Sabatini in the 18th century.
Richly decorated with frescoes and tapestries, the Royal Palace is located in a 15-kilometer square wooded parkland known as the Monte de el Pardo, one of the largest natural areas north of Madrid.
King Juan Carlos: Praise for end of death penalty
President Arroyo on Monday night earned the praises of His Majesty King Juan Carlos I for the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines last year.
"The Philippines returned on 24 June last year to the forefront of liberties and the defense of human rights with the abolition of the death penalty, a gesture which gave us great satisfaction," his
Majesty said in his speech at the gala dinner in honor of the President who is on a four-day state visit to Spain from Dec. 2 to 5.
His Majesty noted that the repeal of the capital punishment in the Philippines was one of the reasons the President would "deservedly" receive the University of Alcala de Henares Gold Medal Tuesday.
"The move was applauded by the international community and by Spain in particular, and for which you will tomorrow, and deservedly, receive the University of Alcala de Henares Gold Medal," he said.
At the same time, the King mentioned the estimated 50,000 Filipinos living and working in Spain. "May I address all our affection and gratitude to the large Philippine community living in Spain and contributing to our well-being," he said.
His Majesty said Spain was committed to help the Philippines achieve peace and progress.
"Your country has been and will continue to be a target of special attention by Spanish Cooperation in Asia…We wish to reiterate to you our willingness to actively back the peace processes you have begun," he said.
Quoting Filipino national hero Jose Rizal, who said that the Philippines was "the Pearl of the Orient Sea," His Majesty noted that his country's former colony was "privileged by nature."
He said the Philippines' "prudent and intelligent use" of its natural resources would guarantee sustainable development.
King Juan Carlos I toasted the President's "personal venture, and that of your husband, and the fraternal ties linking the Philippines and Spain."
In response, the President thanked King Juan Carlos I and his wife, Queen Sofia de Grecia, for the warm welcome she and her delegation received from the Spanish government and the Spanish people.
The President also spoke in fluent Spanish when she thanked the Spanish government for its continued support of her administration, which "represents constitutional order."
"My government has overcome the attempts of undemocratic [forces]. Ihope that Spain always continues to support my government," she added.
The President also said the relationship between the two countries was further enhanced by the presence of a large Filipino community in Spain.
"We are proud of their contributions to this country," she said.
Like King Juan Carlos I, the President quoted Rizal. "Espana esta allí, alli donde deja sentir su influencia bienhechora, y aunque desapareciese su bandera, quedaría su recuerdo, eterno, imperecedero. (Spain is there, there where she lets us feel her beneficent influence, and although her flag has disappeared, she would be left in our eternal memory)," she said, citing this quote from the Filipino Renaissance man whose works inspired the 1896 revolution against Spain.
The President also offered her condolences to the Spanish people for the death of a "guardia civil" (policeman) in the hands of the Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom"). ETA has been banned as a terrorist organization by both the Spanish and French authorities as well as the European Union, the United States, and the United Nations.
The President also mentioned the Philippines’ ratification of the Treaty for the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and her directive ordering the promotion of the Spanish language throughout the country. She talked of the various opportunities for trade and investments in the
Philippines. The President toasted to Their Majesties' "health, well-being, and happiness."
The menu at the gala dinner included potato cream with mild olive oil, medley of vegetables with cured beef, hake (a kind of fish) in two wines with fried spinach leaf, and chocolate brownie to be washed down with aged dry sherry, Vina Mein 2006, Hacienda Monasterio 2001 Reserve, and Gran Juve y Camps Grand Reserve. Music at the gala dinner was provided by the Royal Guard, led by its
director, Music Colonel Francisco Grau Vegara. Their pieces included 1492, Filipinas y Espana, Gigantes y Cabezudos, Musicales en Madrid, Serenata Filipina, Pepita Jimenez, Los Ultimos de Filipinas, and Aida. - Pacific News Center International
In a report by the US Department of State to the US congress has revealed that terrorism has increased over 25% year on year and fatalities have increased by forty per cent.
The figures put into perspective the figures and deaths that while often inder reproted in media there i a major conflict on at World War Level that many in media often chose to ignore. Some 74,543 civilians were targeted.
”… In the annual report to Congress includes analysis from the National Counterterrorism Center, a U.S. intelligence clearinghouse, which found only a slight increase in the overall number of civilians killed, injured or kidnapped by terrorists in 2006. But the attacks were more frequent and deadlier, with a 25 percent jump in the number of terrorist attacks and a 40 percent increase in civilian fatalities from the previous year.
In 2006, NCTC reported, there were a total of 14,338 terrorist attacks around the world. These attacks targeted 74,543 civilians and resulted in 20,498 deaths. …”
Iraq: Center of global terrorism action
The report clearly shows that the center of the attacks is Iraq: ” Violence in Iraq accounted for 45 percent of the overall attacks counted by NCTC and 65 percent of worldwide terrorism deaths. Terrorist incidents in Iraq nearly doubled from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006. “
It went on further to say : “Although kidnappings declined by 50 percent internationally, Iraq experienced a 300 percent increase, according to NCTC.” an indication as shown by experience here in the Philippines that KFR and terrorism are linked. Kidnapping for Ransom is often used by terror groups and in some cases insurgents as means to both ensure community ‘cooperation’ and also a means to raise revenue.
The Philippines: ” the ‘Success’ story in war vs. terror’
The 2006 US State Department global report on counter terrorism praises the country citing “‘the Philippines” as among others in the region who are, ” playing leading roles in confronting threats from groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.”
 ” Philippines
The Philippines, one of the earliest supporters of the War on Terror, continued its bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism efforts. In August, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched “Operation Ultimatum”, a concerted effort to capture or kill the top Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) operatives on Jolo Island in the South. The operation has been highly successful to date as a number of ASG and JI members have been captured or killed since its inception. Philippine forces recently eliminated both Khadaffy Janjalani, the nominal leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and ASG spokesperson, Abu Solaiman. Operation Ultimatum is one feature of a U.S.- assisted strategy to strengthen the rule of law in the Sulu archipelago. Joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises know as “Balikatan” supported the Philippine government’s campaign to separate terrorists from the general population and diminish support for their cause. The Antiterrorism Task Force arrested, captured, or killed 88 suspected terrorists, and seized over 900 kilograms of explosive materials. Philippine authorities also made some progress in tracking, blocking, and seizing terrorists’ assets.
Despite some successes, major evidentiary and procedural obstacles in the Philippines continued to hinder the building of effective terrorism cases. A large and growing case backlog and the absence of consistent trials against terrorists were impediments to the prosecution of suspected terrorists. Despite plans dating back to 2001, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had yet to introduce a digitized, machine-readable passport. While the Philippines cooperated with U.S. requests for prosecutions for persons who had tampered or altered travel documents, the prosecutions carried low-level penalties for those convicted of such fraud. In addition, there was a reluctance to investigate or charge vendors or users of false documents. Under current Philippine law, the suspect must present the fraudulent document to a Philippine government authority in order for a crime to have been committed. At year’s end, a counterterrorism bill approved in April by the House of Representatives remained in the Senate.
The Philippines experienced 93 bombings, ranging from improvised explosive devices and grenades to landmines, including:
- In February, the bombing of a karaoke bar located near a Philippine military base in Jolo left one dead and 22 injured.
- In March, a bomb exploded at the Sulu Consumers Cooperative in Jolo killing nine people and injuring 20.
- In June, a roadside bombing in Shariff Aguak killed three people and injured eight.
- In August, two bombs exploded almost simultaneously in Kidapawan City injuring three people.
- In September, a bomb exploded at a public market in General Santos City killing two people and injuring six.
- In October, a bomb exploded near the headquarters of the Sulu Philippine National Police in Jolo injuring two persons.
- In a separate October attack, three bombs exploded in Tacurong, Sultan Kudurat; Makilala, North Cotabato; and Cotabato City killing eight people and injuring over 30.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was empowered by the Philippines Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA), as amended in 2003, to investigate and prosecute money laundering. The AMLC is the lead agency responsible for implementing the asset freeze measures called for by the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee. Under current law, however, the AMLC cannot take direct action against suspected terrorists or those supporting terrorism, but must apply for a court order to inquire into bank accounts and direct the freezing of assets and transactions. The AMLC sometimes needed several months to issue the relevant resolution to the Court of Appeals after receiving information about a newly-listed terrorist entity and circulating it to the financial institutions. The AMLC has 91 cases pending in various stages with the courts, including 34 for money laundering, 24 for civil forfeiture, and the rest pertaining to freeze orders and bank inquiries. The slow judicial process hindered efforts by the AMLC to see these cases through to conclusion; a trial can take up to seven years to complete. In April, a bilateral U.S.-Philippines Security Engagement Board (SEB) was inaugurated to address non-traditional security issues, including counterterrorism and maritime security. The SEB set the stage for the “Kapid Bisig” (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) counterterrorism framework that focused on civil affairs, capability upgrades, and support for AFP operations. The United States assisted the Philippines in establishing an interagency intelligence fusion center in Zamboanga City to support both maritime interdictions against transnational criminal/terrorist organizations, and the “coast watch” system in Mindanao, established with Australian assistance. ” 
AFGHANISTAN & South Asia attacks up:
The report also found a 50 percent increase in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, from 491 incidents in 2005 to 749 in 2006. To defeat the resurgent threat, the report urges the international community deliver promised assistance and continue working with Afghans to build counterinsurgency capabilities, ensure legitimate and effective governance and counter a surge in narcotics cultivation.
” NCTC reported that the majority of terrorist attacks remain centered in the Middle East and South Asia, but noted that overall attacks in South Asia declined by 10 percent. ” so says the State department press release.
Child victims of attacks increase 80% increase in casualties:
Children were increasingly the victims of terrorism in 2006, with 1,800 killed or injured in attacks, an 80 percent increase from the previous year. As in 2005, government officials, teachers and journalists remain the leading professionals targeted by terrorists, according to the report.
VENEZUELA: Hugo Chavez: possible state Sponsor?
The report also claims that Venezuela’s leader may be seen as major figure in state sponsored terrorism soon, ” President Hugo Chavez has strengthened ties with Cuba and Iran and has allowed terrorist groups and drug traffickers from neighboring Colombia to cross its borders. ” says US State Department in its press release.
However looking over the report at length it did cite the cooperation of Venezuelan police in protecting the US Embassy. ” An individual claiming to be a member of an Islamic extremist group in Venezuela placed two pipe bombs outside the American Embassy in Caracas on October 23.” But went on to say, ” Venezuelan police safely disposed of the two pipe bombs and immediately made one arrest.”
The report also cited that. “The investigation by Venezuelan authorities resulted in the additional arrest of the alleged ideological leader of the group. At year’s end, both suspects remained in jail and prosecutors were pressing terrorism charges against them.” yet in other areas of ideological conflict Venezuela still supports or so the US State Department report says - Narco Terrorism and leftist rebel groups who have engaged in terror attacks versus Americans and American companies.
 “… President Hugo Chavez persisted in public criticism of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, deepened Venezuelan relationships with Iran and Cuba, and was unwilling to prevent Venezuelan territory from being used as a safe haven by the FARC and ELN, effectively flouting UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1540, which form part of the legal basis of international counterterrorism efforts.
Chavez’ ideological sympathy for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) limited Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism. FARC and ELN units often crossed into Venezuelan territory to rest and regroup with relative impunity. Splinter groups of the FARC and another designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, the United Self- Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), operated in various parts of Venezuela and were involved in narcotrafficking.
It remained unclear to what extent the Venezuelan government provided material support to Colombian terrorists. However, limited amounts of weapons and ammunition — some from official Venezuelan stocks and facilities — have turned up in the hands of Colombian terrorist organizations. The Venezuelan government did not systematically police the 1,400-mile Venezuelan-Colombian border to prevent the movement of groups of armed terrorists or to interdict arms or the flow of narcotics.”
The full text of Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 is available on the State Department Web site.
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