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Switzerland court orders transfer of Ferdinand Marcos assets to Philippines

[JURIST] The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [official website, in German] ruled Monday that more than $8 million deposited by a former associate of late president Ferdinand Marcos [official profile] must be returned to the Philippines government. This is the last of the money deposited in Swiss bank accounts before the overthrow of Marcos in 1986. The Philippine government claimed that the funds were "ill-gotten" [Philippine Star report]. The funds will now be transferred [Manila Times report] to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) [official website].

In June, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [opinion text; JURIST report] that an interpleader action to determine ownership of assets held by Marcos could not continue because an indispensable party is protected by sovereign immunity. The PCGG claimed ownership of funds improperly moved out of the Philippines by Marcos and invested with US investment bank Merrill Lynch, as did Mariano Pimentel, the representative of a class of 9,539 people holding an unsatisfied human rights judgment [opinion text] against Marcos' estate. Merrill Lynch initiated the interpleader action to settle ownership of the funds, listing the Philippines, PCGG, and Pimentel, among others, as claimants. The Philippines and PCGG asserted their sovereign immunity from the suit and moved to dismiss the entire action, arguing that they were indispensable parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(b) [text]. The Court ruled that the Philippine government was an indispensable party, overturning a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and remanding the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the interpleader action.

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