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Imelda Grilled Over Riches

Former first lady Imelda Marcos sidestepped questions from Philippine senators Monday about her claim that her late husband owned much of the country's wealth.

The senate hearing was broadcast live on nationwide television, allowing many Filipinos for the first time to watch Mrs. Marcos queried about the origin of her family's riches.

Mrs. Marcos said her lawyers advised her to keep silent to avoid hurting her chances of fending off the government's efforts to recover money it says the Marcoses obtained illegally.

Mrs. Marcos, 69, told the lawmakers her husband was not a thief and had amassed his fortune by trading gold. She refused to give other details.

Marcos, who was elected president in 1965, was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii three years later. He had denied any wrongdoing.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the country's leading newspapers, quoted Mrs. Marcos earlier this month as saying, "We practically own everything in the Philippines."

Mrs. Marcos reportedly plans to sue to try to recover at least $12.65 billion in stock in more than 100 Philippine corporations. Marcos allegedly entrusted the shares to associates who now refuse to return them.

Mrs. Marcos said she wanted the lawmakers' help in recovering her husband's assets now in the hands of trustees, suggesting that the late president had wanted the wealth turned over to the government for the benefit of all Filipinos. She refused to identify the investments or trustees.

Mrs. Marcos acknowledged providing information about her late husband's fortune to Inquirer reporter Christine Herrera but said she hasn't authorized it to be published.

On Friday, Herrera gave senators taped recordings of her interview with Mrs. Marcos.

The government has accused the Marcoses of illegally enriching themselves during the former dictator's 20-year rule. It has filed claims on $570 million in an escrow account in a Philippine bank.

The Marcoses' accounts are also claimed by more than 9,500 Filipinos who won a class-action lawsuit for human rights violations against the Marcos estate.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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