US to return war booty church bells to Philippines

A view of the Roman Catholic church in the coastal Philippine town of Balangiga, the belfry of which the town built in 1998 in the hope that the US would return three bells it says were stolen during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War. (Reuters/Nathan Layne/File Photo)
Updated 12 August 2018
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US to return war booty church bells to Philippines

  • The US will return church bells to the Philippines troops seized in a bloody campaign more than a century ago
  • Duterte and previous Philippine governments had urged Washington to return the bells

MANILA: The United States will return to the Philippines church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, its embassy said on Sunday, following a demand by President Rodrigo Duterte.
American forces took three bells from the Catholic church of Balangiga town on the eastern island of Samar in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new US colony.
Duterte and previous Philippine governments had urged Washington to return the bells, with the president often raising the issue in his anti-American tirades as he builds closer ties with China and Russia.
The US had initially given a non-committal response to Duterte’s demands but on Sunday said it would return the bells.
“The Secretary of Defense has notified Congress that the Department (of Defense) intends to return the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines,” said Molly Koscina, spokeswoman for the US embassy in Manila.
“We’ve received assurances that the Bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve,” she added, saying there was no date scheduled for the move.
Duterte’s spokesman welcomed the announcement.
Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for US war dead in the state of Wyoming, while the third is with US forces in South Korea.
Some US politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial, and the issue had sparked an emotional response from the descendants of American soldiers who served in the Philippine campaign.
The Philippines, a Spanish colony for centuries, was ceded to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. The country gained independence from the US in 1946.
The brutal Samar campaign was launched about a month after Filipino rebels killed 34 US troops in Balangiga on September 28, 1901, according to a US Army War College research paper.
Seven other American soldiers perished during the escape from Balangiga, and US reinforcements razed the town the day after, it added.
Then-Philippine president Fidel Ramos first sought but failed to recover the bells during a 1998 Washington trip.
Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, demanded the return of the bells during his State of the Nation address last year: “Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage.”


Ex-Goldman banker to finish Malaysia legal process before US extradition

Updated 20 February 2019
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Ex-Goldman banker to finish Malaysia legal process before US extradition

  • Goldman’s role is under scrutiny as the Wall Street titan helped arrange $6.5 billion in bonds for 1MDB
  • Authorities in Malaysia and the US accuse former employees of bribery and stealing billions of dollars

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A former Goldman Sachs banker accused of involvement in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal will only be extradited to the United States after legal proceedings against him in Malaysia are completed, a minister said.
Huge sums of public money were purportedly stolen from Malaysian state fund 1MDB and used to buy everything from yachts to art in a scheme that allegedly involved former premier Najib Razak and contributed to his government’s election defeat.
Goldman’s role is under scrutiny as the Wall Street titan helped arrange $6.5 billion in bonds for 1MDB. Authorities in Malaysia and the US accuse former employees of bribery and stealing billions of dollars, and investigators believe cash was laundered through the US financial system.
Malaysian Ng Chong Hwa, a former managing director at the bank, was indicted in November when US authorities also lodged an extradition request. He has been in custody in Malaysia since the US indictment.
Malaysia also filed charges against Ng, more commonly known as Roger Ng, as well as Goldman.
At a court hearing last week, Ng agreed to stop fighting the extradition request and said he wanted to be sent to the US within 30 days.
But Malaysia’s government must approve his extradition, and Interior Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Ng’s case in Malaysia must go ahead first.
“We will honor the extradition but we will prioritize the case in Malaysia until it is completed. This is the advice of the attorney-general, and we will abide by it,” Yassin said.
Ng’s case will likely come before the Malaysian courts again next month, he said.
Ng was charged in Malaysia in December with four counts related to 1MDB, and has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 40 years in jail if convicted.
As well as Ng, former Goldman partner Tim Leissner and the bank’s subsidiaries are also accused of making false statements in order to steal billions of dollars, and of bribing officials.
Leissner has already pleaded guilty in the US to 1MDB-linked charges.