Lucio Tan Pleads Not Guilty to P5.6-B Tax Evasion Cases
Byline: TERESA CEROJANO
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine tobacco tycoon Lucio Tan, one of the richest men in the world, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he used dummy firms to evade paying more than R25 billion ($445 million; euro 338 million) in taxes.
Tan entered the plea before the suburban Marikina City Metropolitan Trial Court, which earlier had dismissed the nine counts of tax evasion against him and 52 others but reopened the case last year following a Supreme Court ruling.
According to the charges, Tans Fortune Tobacco Corp. evaded paying the taxes from 1990 to 1992, court officials said.
Tan, 70, chairman of Philippine Airlines, is one of the countrys richest men, with interests in banking, beer and tobacco. Forbes magazine lists him among the worlds billionaires, with assets of up to $1.5 billion (euro 1.14 billion) as of last February.
The revenue bureau originally charged Tan with tax evasion in 1993 during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos.
But that case did not proceed because Tan, in a series of appeals that reached the Supreme Court, managed to get the charges suspended pending an investigation by the Justice Department.
Tan claimed the cases were brought against him for not supporting Ramos 1992 candidacy.
Tan was also closely identified with late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, and was accused of acting as a front for several companies the government believes were owned by Marcos.
After Marcos 1986 ouster, Tan kept a low profile under the succeeding administrations of Corazon Aquino and Ramos, who actively pursued the tax charges against him.
Tan was a supporter of former President Joseph Estrada, who succeeded Ramos in 1998 and was ousted on corruption charges in 2001.
Philippines richest man Lucio Tan pleads not guilty to tax evasion
MANILA (AFP) Lucio Tan, the Philippines wealthiest man, on Friday pleaded not guilty of failing to pay taxes of some $455 million, court officials said.
The 69-year-old tycoon, clad in formal white Filipino shirt, appeared at a lower court in eastern Manila together with other executives of his Fortune Tobacco Corp. to answer charges that the firm evaded taxes totalling R25.6 billion ($455 million) between 1990 and 1992.
"He pleaded not guilty," a court official told AFP. The other defendants made the same pleas.
Tan lawyer Estelito Mendoza said his client welcomed the filing of the charges so he could prove his innocence.
"We even asked the court for a two days per week trial but the court did not agree because of its heavy schedule," Mendoza told reporters.
Metropolitan trial court judge Alex Ruiz set once-a-week hearings every Friday from Feb. 18.
The government has been prosecuting the case since 1993 but has so far failed to win a conviction.
The case was filed at the court in 1998 but it was dismissed the following year. The government later brought the case to a regional trial court, which also dismissed it.
However, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court rulings last year and ordered a retrial.
The US magazine Forbes lists Tan, an immigrant from eastern China, as the worlds 377th richest man with a fortune of about $1.5 billion.
Aside from Fortune Tobacco, Tan also controls the national carriers Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines, Asia Brewery and the Allied Bank, among others.
Lucio Tan, execs plead not guilty to multi-billion tax evasion raps
Tobacco magnate Lucio Tan and his co-accused in the multi-billion peso tax evasion cases pleaded not guilty in yesterdays arraignment before the Marikina City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 75 presided by Judge Alex Ruiz.
Aside from Tan, founder and chairman of Fortune Tobacco Corp., 70 other executives and officers of the FTC and eight marketing corporations were charged with nine cases of tax evasion amounting to R25 billion in unpaid taxes that have accrued over the past decade. …