NEW YORK (AP) — A former secretary to Imelda Marcos was charged Tuesday in New York with conspiracy to sell valuable artworks that disappeared during the collapse of Marcos' husband's regime in the Philippines.
Vilma Bautista, 74, was indicted on charges of conspiracy, tax fraud and offering a false instrument for filing. Two of her nephews, Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana and Pongsak Navalaksana, also were charged.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Bautista used false paperwork to sell a work from Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" series for $32 million in September 2010.
"The integrity of the international art market must be protected," Vance said in a statement. "This indictment sheds light on what happened to major works of art missing for more than 25 years."
Her attorney, Fran Hoffinger, said Bautista got caught in a civil dispute between the Marcoses and the Philippine government.
"It's a civil dispute," Hoffinger said. "It doesn't belong in criminal court."
According to the indictment, Bautista was a foreign service officer assigned to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations but unofficially served as Imelda Marcos' New York-based personal secretary.
The indictment says that during the presidency of her husband, Ferdinand, Imelda Marcos used state assets to acquire a vast collection of artwork and other valuables. Prosecutors say some of the art ended up in Bautista's possession after the Marcoses were ousted in a citizen revolt in 1986.
According to the indictment, the most valuable work was the 1899 Monet painting that was sold, "Japanese Footbridge Over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny." There was also another Monet and Alfred Sisley's "Langland Bay" from 1887.
Prosecutors said Bautista and her nephews plotted to sell the paintings and keep the proceeds tax-free.
Bautista pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $175,000.