A fellow blogger, JoeAmerica, had asked about an American smelter who had helped Marcos ‘re-fingerprint’ his gold through the smelting equipment of this American national which were shipped from Nevada to the Philippines.
This equipment were left behind and he and his business partner, MacAllaster hurried back to the States for fear of their lives. The reprocessing of the gold bars was made to purge them with their original fingerprint and hide them from the countries they were stolen from by the Japanese during the war.
The fabled Yamashita’s gold is true. These gold bullions, diamonds, jewelries and other historical arts and relics were looted by the Japanese from countries they have occupied as early as 1910 when it annexed Korea in its empire, Nanking in 1937, and from Southeast Asian countries from 1942 through 1945. At the height of the Pacific war, the Japanese General Headquarters, created Golden Lily, a group of highly skilled people that oversee the systematic plunder of the conquered territories.
This international loot was shipped to Japan during the progress of the war using Singapore and the Philippines as transhipment routes. But as the Allies cordoned off the sealanes during the last years of the war, Japan buried the bulk of these treasures in the Philippines hoping to come back for them years later.
The American smelter Robert Curtis was lured by Marcos into joint venture for treasure hunting in 1975. After initial recovery of gold from the sunken cruiser, Nachi, and Teresa-2 caves, he was threatened with death suspected of feeding the press in the U.S. about the recovered gold from the Japanese war-time loot.
He was bankrupted by Marcos and had to face several lawsuits when he returned to the United States for money borrowed from investors to finance his gold venture with Marcos in the Philippines.
In 1945 Japan officially surrendered to the Allies and a Treaty of Peace was concluded in 1951 which practically exempted Japan from making reparations to the countries it had plundered because it has already made a pact with Gen. McArthur about the disposition of the loot. From the ashes of atomic bombs, Japan rebuilt itself economically through the fruits of its decades of pillaging its neighbors which were kept at the Imperial Palace and other private homes of warlords involved in the war.
Authors Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, among others, had documented the hunt of Yamashita’s Treasures in the Philippines in their book, Gold Warriors, ISBN 978-184467-531-9.
“Already a billionaire with his own tropical paradise, Marcos had a pathological streak – too much was never enough. He wanted everyone to know he was as rich as the Rothschild’s, Saudis, and Oppenheimers. This would do him in.
He knew the Japanese were ripping him off, steering him away from big vaults. Without their help, recovering the Golden Lily sites was difficult. Even with true maps and an eyewitness like Ben Valmores, you could not just pick a spot and start digging. Ben could take you there, but he knew nothing of the underground configuration. Even above ground, Ben could not be precise; trees had toppled, rivers changed course, new construction obliterated landmarks. If you missed by a few inches, months were wasted. Marcos decided to bring in a famous psychic and a clever mining expert. The mining expert would reverse-engineer Ben’s maps, and the psychic could determine the precise position of the gold. Once their jobs were done, they could be eliminated.” (ibid, p. 168).
“Marketing gold was another headache (the first is finding them). By 1974, it was legal for the first time since 1933 for private America citizens to purchase gold. Accordingly, world gold prices started to rise. This put Marcos in an enviable ‘long position’ with a lot of gold to sell – if he could get the gold into the market. But the bars he recovered were not standard in size; purity, or hallmark, and had no legalizing paper trail. Aside from black-market deals where anything goes, gold normally is traded in standard size, weight and purity acceptable to the London gold market. Legitimate gold bars must have recognized hallmarks and identification numbers. They must be accompanied by proof of ownership, called a statement of origin, with a paper trail sowing the record of transportation, security, insurance, and so forth. Almost all the treasure stolen by Golden Lily did not meet the London standard. It came from Asian countries where gold was of inconsistent purity, usually 22 karats or less, not only from bansk and treasuries but from the hoards of Overseas Chinese tycoons, Malay Moslem datos, Buddhist sects, drug lords, triads, gangsters, ancient tombs, jewelry and artifacts. Ingots were all shape and sizes, marked with odd signs and symbols, stamped or engraved in different languages. Each contained minerals and impurities, like a fingerprint, so an assay would reveal where it had been mined. At the end of World War II in Europe, the Allies got around this problem by re-smelting Nazi gold, erasing the fingerprint and any trace of ownership.
In the past, Marcos had avoided this problem by marketing the gold he recovered through the Japanese or CIA. Both would take irregular ingots, but only at a deep discount. In effect, the CIA would pay Marcos a finder’s fee, as they had paid Sta. Romana (Santy) during his time as gatekeeper. Marcos tried black-market deals, swapping non-standard gold to Panama for cocaine, and to Thai drug lords for heroine, but created marketing headaches of another kind, when he had to find buyers for the narcotics.
If he was going to bypass the CIA and the Japanese and sell his gold to the world market, it had to be physically altered – a process called sanctifying – to conform to London gold standard. A member of the Gold Cartel would only do this for him at a deep discount, so Marcos had to find a private individual who could sanctify the gold and add the right impurities to prove it was legitimate gold from Philippine mines.
One possibility was a mining expert and metallurgist in Nevada named Robert Curtis. When Marcos attended a presidential conference at Cancun on the Gulf of Mexico, he discussed his gold problem with Costa Rica’s president, Jose Figueras. Costa Rica also had gold mines, so Figueras was well-informed. He told Marcos that Robert Curtis had developed a process to extract more gold from previously mined ores, and also could change gold’s fingerprint to make it look as if it came from the Philippines.” (ibid, p. 169).
Curtis entered into the picture. He asked for $375,000 loans to cover his expenses in the Philippines from Birch Society because he could not approach a bank that he needed money to finance a gold extraction in the Philippines. Curtis brought along an associate, MacAllaster.
Marcos also recruited an American psychic Olof Jonsson to help him find the buried gold. Jonsson was able to pinpoint the exact spot of where heavy cruiser Nachi sunk on November 5, 1944 with 100 metric tons of Golden Lily bullion at Cavite on Manila Bay. But after finding the spot, Curtis and Jonsson were never allowed to oversee the retrieval operation.
Here is Gold Warriors again:
“According to Ben Valmores maps, this was a 777 site, a big one. An Army team sent by Marcos had already tried and failed to excavate Teresa-1. Both Teresa-1 and Teresa-2 were by an army base at barrio Teresa, a sleepy provincial town in Rizal, southeast of Manila. Here was an elaborate tunnel complex carved out of a limestone hill shaped like a sugarloaf, holding billions of dollar’s worth of gold, platinum, diamonds, and three solid-gold Buddhas. Teresa was dug in 1943 by some 2,000 American, Australian, Dutch and Filipino prisoners of war. When the Japanese Army took over the existing military base, all local Filipino residents were moved away, and a prison camp was built. Just outside Teresa stood the peculiar sugarloaf, which was a calcium karts formation sticking up over 200 feet. This limestone was a fine-grained, dark grey rock, which Filipinos cut into building bricks they call adobe. Because the stone was strong but easy to cut, tunneling was possible without shoring or concrete reinforcement. Japanese engineers developed a plan for several tiers of tunnels in the sugarloaf and beneath it. There would be five layers in all (Teresa-1 through Teresa-5). The top layer resembled a stick figure with curved tunnels like carabao horns at either end. The left-hand horns were Teresa-1, the right hand horns Teresa-2. Other layers were beneath that. To ventilate the tunnels during construction, the map showed that six vertical airshafts were dug. Curtis hoped to locate one of the larger vents as a point of entry.
During the war, there were six excavation teams here, each with 200 POWs, working around the clock from different starting points. The men wore only loin clothes and dog-tags, and were sustained only by bowls of thin rice gruel. Those who collapsed and died were replaced. There was no shortage of slaves.
When the tunneling was complete, five of the six tunnels were sealed twenty feet inside each mouth, using a special mixture of porcelain clay, fine sand and crushed rock and cement. An officer from Ishikawa prefecture in northern Honshu – a region famous for its ceramic industries – was in charge of blocking entrances. One secret of Ishikawa ceramics was clay from North China. When it was mixed with marine sand, cement and crushed local rock, it did not shrink as it cured, and became exceptionally hard. It could be colored to blend with the local limestone, leaving no visible trace of an opening. When these plugs had cured, the remaining twenty feet of each entrance were backfilled with dirt, planted with shrubs, bamboo, and papaya. The papaya trees grow fast, so the patches soon were indistinguishable from adjacent terrain.
Meanwhile, convoys of Japanese Army trucks made their way to Teresa from Manila Bay warehouses, carrying gold bullion, oil drums of gems, and the three solid gold Buddhas – one three feet tall, one eight feet tall, and one thirteen feet tall. According to plan the treasure was dispersed in various parts of the complex. In Teresa 1 and 2 there were six locations for the gold bars. Two smaller lots of gold were placed in pits dug in the floor, like the pit discovered by Roger Roxas. Other spaces were filled with drums of mixed gems or diamonds. Over many days, bronze boxes of gold were carried into the tunnels and placed in designated locations. All these areas were then backfilled with dirt carried in wicker baskets by the POWs. Next the two smaller gold Buddhas were pushed into the tunnels using a bulldozer. Each Buddha was shoved into position on top of a slab of plate steel, resting on top of a 1,000-pound bomb that had its nose sticking out one side. Once the trigger mechanism was primed, the bomb would explode if anybody disturbed the Buddha. The third Buddha, thirteen feet tall, was so heavy that two bulldozers had to be used to get it into the tunnel, one pulling while another pushed. When the Buddha was in place, the bulldozer that had pulled could not leave. So the Japanese removed its engine, putting two boxes of gold bars in its place, then drained the fuel tank, and filled it with loose items. When this was done, a final convoy of trucks arrived at Teresa. These 23 trucks were driven straight into the remaining space in carabao horns. The tires were deflated and the vehicles weighted down with gold, sank to their hubs. A Shinto priest came to bless the treasure. All POWs were ordered into the tunnels, on the pretext that they were to unload the trucks. When all 1,200 were inside, bulldozers began shoving earth over the last entrance. As the POWs realized they were to be buried alive; they started yelling and running for the entrance. Machine guns already positioned at each entrance shot them down. Once the first ranks died, others half-dead from starvation and overwork did not have the strength to get past the bodies blocking their way or to climb over the mound of dirt already shoved in by the bulldozers. They kept yelling and clawing at the barricade of dirt and bodies as they were entombed.
This entrance was then sealed with the special ceramic cement, booby-trapped with 1,000-pound bombs and small glass vials of cyanide. Finally, the Japanese closed the three airshafts over Teresa-1 and the three over Teresa-2. In each group, two vents measured only two feet in diameter, while the third shaft measured eight feet in diameter, ventilating a deeper tunnel. The small vents were filled with soil, rubble, and rocks. The eight-foot-wide were filled layer-by-layer, with dirt, rocks, charcoal, bamboo, broken glass, and human bones -mostly skulls and hands. (As punishment, the Japanese chopped off hands first, and then the head, in front of all other prisoners.) The red series treasure map included exact details about the fill in the main airshafts, because this was to be the point of access for the team that would return from Japan someday to recover the treasure. The last touch was to replant the top of the hill and its surroundings, so villagers would detect no changes when they returned.
Curtis had a hunch that he and Ben Valmores could find one of the big airshafts, which could make recovery easy. Visiting the site with Ben and Pol in April 1975, Curtis discovered local men quarrying limestone blocks from the top of the hill. He asked General Ver to have them removed with the excuse that the army was going to take soil samples here for a military installation. A few squatters were evicted from their shacks. Curtis, Ben and Pol soon found the main airshaft, because the fill had settled somewhat leaving circular depression. Marcos arranged for the Age Construction Company (pronounced Ah-gay) to do the excavation, and they began digging into the airshaft. Just as the map indicated, they encountered layers of human bones, bamboo, broken glass and charcoal. At thirty-one meters depth they hit porcelain -cement barrier. When hey jack hammered through it, everyone smelled a terrible stench and began vomiting. The workers broke out in sores and rashes and had to be hospitalized. Some believed the escaping gases came from the putrefaction of over a thousand bodies sealed with the treasure. Curtis though it might be methane gas, or poison from canisters dropped into the shaft before it was sealed. Whatever the source, it included gases of decay, for within days the mouth of the airshaft was surrounded by large ugly flowers, called Death Flowers.
Once the shaft aired out, digging resumed down to thirty-six meters. There the diggers found a large round stone 60 inches in diameter with a six-inch hole bored in its middle. It was a millstone, another of the symbols shown on Ben’s treasure map, proving the legitimacy of the maps in his possession. After five weeks, on June 8, 1975, the diggers jack hammered through another thick porcelain-cement layer and broke into the vault containing trucks loaded with gold. Olof Jonssson climbed down and had a look, then climbed frantically out in a state of wide alarm. He told Curtis that he had an intense sense of the spirits of all the men buried alive there – he even felt fingers clutching at him. After that Olof would not go back inside.
Curtis climbed down himself, and began collecting dog-tags to notify next of kin, but Ver’s men demanded he turn them over.
Had Curtis been psychic like Jonsson, he would have been alarmed by this behavior, and by new demands suddenly laid on him by John Birch Society. Out of the blue, the Agnews suddenly demanded additional security for the loan. Over phone, Curtis offered them titles to his heavy equipment in Nevada. He was obliged to sign a new document, giving the Birch Society exclusive rights to market up to $20-billion worth of any gold recoveries he engineered for Marcos. Curtis was told the Birchers would do this through offshore company in the Bahamas called Commonwealth Packaging Ltd., owned by Kwik Lok. Marcos gold would be sold in Nassau which is a major center for gold trading. The proceeds would be deposited in the Nassau branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. Then using accounts controlled by the senior members of the Birch Society, the money would be credited to the Royal Bank of Canada branch in Kelowna, British Columbia, east of Vancouver. There it would be deposited to an account controlled by one of the key financial experts of the Birch Society, who would retrieve the money and smuggle it across the border personally. Curtis said the Birchers boasted to him about smuggling very large sums into the United States in this fashion.
Curtis should have been suspicious, because these new demands signaled that something was happening behind the curtains, while he was occupied with Teresa-2.
Recovery was near. Well in advance, Curtis had sent Marcos a memo about security precautions. x x”
At 4 a.m. on the morning of July 5, 1975, Curtis was awakened at the penthouse suite in the Philippine Village Hotel by a phone call from one of the security guards at Teresa -2. A job foreman had just stopped all digging because the diggers had hit a truck fender and the nose of a 1,000-pound bomb. By prior agreement, if they came upon a bomb, Curtis was to remove construction workers, and contact a Colonel Gemora who would arrange for a bomb removal squad to be rushed to the site. Excited by news of the truck fender, Curtis and MacAllaster drove to the army base to wake Gemora, who tried to reach General Ver but failed to get through. They all drove to Quezon City to alert General Cannu, who located Ver by phone. Ver told Curtis he would take care of everything, and that Curtis and MacAllaster should go back to their hotel. He would send a car for them later, to have a victory meeting with President Marcos.
When Curtis and MacAllaster returned to the penthouse they found Olof Jonsson in the sitting room with bags packed, deeply worried Olof told them he sensed they were in mortal danger and must leave the Philippines immediately. Although Olof had a very gentle nature, there was nothing weak or eccentric about him. Curtis had never seen him so agitated: “You could actually sense his fear as he spoke to us.” He and MacAllaster tried to calm Olof, saying that they were about to become rich, but Olof was adamant. He was leaving the Philippines as fast as he could get to the nearby airport.
Curtis reminded him that with martial law in effect, there was no way he could get the necessary exit permit and still make that day’s flight to Hawaii. Olof was not dissuaded. He left immediately for the airport.
Curtis and MacAllaster remained elated. They knew they had hit the fender of one of the twenty-three trucks loaded with gold bars. They were going to be very rich.
“We thought we were all going to celebrate at Malacanang Palace with the President,” Curtis said. It seemed a shame that Olof would miss the festivities.
That afternoon, as promised, a car came to pick up Curtis and MacAllaster. Instead of taking them to Malacanang Palace, it took them to the American war cemetery at Ft. Bonifacio. Colonel Lachica was waiting for them, sitting in a jeep with Major Olivas. He was holding a .45 caliber automatic, Olivas a .38 caliber revolver. Lachica motioned for Curtis to look down – there was a freshly dug grave three feet deep. Curtis realized it was his. Lachica put his .45 behind Curtis’s right ear and said: “I am sorry Bob, but I have been ordered to do this. This is nothing personal.” Curtis began to talk fast: “I can’t stop you from pulling the trigger Mario, but if you do, I am sure you will be laying in a hole right next to me very soon. Kill me and Marcos won’t have the treasure maps.
Note: In earlier narrative in the book, the various maps about the 172 treasure sites were entrusted to Curtis and his group, but he hid most of the maps.
Lachica thought that it was a bluff, but he was uncertain. He called Olivas, and they walked back to the jeep to radio Ver. While they waited for instructions, Ver sent men to ransack the penthouse suite and the conference room next door, which had been used by Curtis and his team. Marcella MacAllaster watched, terrified. The searchers confiscated every piece of paper, every picture, every drawing, every roll of film. These were taken to the palace and examined, but the red series maps were not among them. When it was clear the maps were missing, Marcos told Ver to postpone the executions.
At the cemetery, Lachica said: “President Marcos and the general want to meet you for dinner in a few days to make amends and in the meantime I am to return you to your hotel.” Curtis simply replied, “Good.”
By then it was after sunset. When Lachica and Olivas dropped them at the hotel, Lachica said, “President Marcos and General Ver are very sorry about this incident. It has all been a serious misunderstanding.”
Curtis did not know until later that the misunderstanding had to do with a man named Primitivo Mijares.
Mijares had been Imelda Marcos’s confidant, (Ferdinand not Imelda, JCC’s correction) for many years. An intelligent man knew more than most people what was really going on in the Philippines, and about the torture and murders taking place in security chambers at Malacnang Palace called the Black Room. He had finally sickened, and was convinced by anti-Marcos to speak out. Like, Roxas, Mijares would suffer terribly for his courage. Seeking the biggest stage available, Mijares had flown to the United States, where it was arranged for him to testify before a committee of the U.S. Congress holding hearing about the Marcos regime. There were already strong indications that U.S. aid to the Philippines could be drastically cut if Marcos did not mend his ways. When Mijares gave his testimony on Capitol Hill a diplomatic storm broke. At the same moment, columnist Jack Anderson reported on July 4 and 5, 1975 that Marcos was hunting Japanese war loot with the help of several Americans.
Marcos suspected that Bob Curtis had leaked this information to Jack Anderson, so he decided to have Curtis and MacAllaster murdered the moment treasure was found at Terresa-2.
At the penthouse the night of July 5, 1975, Curtis knew only what Lachica had told him: That there had been a leak to Jack Anderson’s column, and Curtis and MacAllaster were blamed for it. They had narrowly escaped having their heads blown off. He now understood Olof’s terrible premonition. Marcos would not hesitate to have them killed once he regained possession of the maps.
In fact the maps were there in the penthouse the whole time, and Curtis was astonished that Ver’s men did not find them during their search.
Weeks earlier, Curtis had been confronted by the problem of what to do with the 172 waxed maps while he was away working at Teresa-2. Each map was priceless and irreplaceable. Yet there were maids cleaning these rooms each day. Looking around the conference room, he noticed that there was a plumber’s panel under the sink in the wet bar. On the spur of the moment, Curtis unscrewed the panel and saw that the maps would fit neatly inside. From then on he kept the original maps there around the clock, only taking out the ones that currently interested him.
To cut the narrative short, Curtis and MacAllaster burned the maps because photographs of them have already been sent to Nevada. They theorized that as long as Marcos did not have the original maps, they would not be harmed.
Curtis, MacAllaster and her wife took the flight back home, but while inside the plane, soldiers tried to search them. Curtis refused to be searched and claimed that he is an American in an American airplane, and Marcos soldiers have no right to search them.
Villacrusis never took the precaution of photographing or photocopying the maps. To protect himself, after Curtis fled, Villacrusis drew fourteen maps from memory, which he passed off successfully as red series originals that he had kept aside. The only red series map Marcos had ever seen was one shown him by Curtis so the ruse worked. Marcos put the Villacrusis reproductions in his office vault at Malacanang Palace, where they were found after he was removed from power.
From one of Ver’s officers, Colonel Orlando Dulay, Curtis learned later that Marcos proceeded with the Teresa-2 recovery, but only recovered the gold bullion from the army trucks. He then ordered the main air duct closed. He did not recover the three solid gold Buddhas. According to Dulay, the gold was trucked from Teresa to a private home owned by Marcos in the town of San Juan where it was assayed and inventoried. Dulay said the gold bullion in the trucks totaled 22,000 metric tons, while a member of the Marcos family who helped inventory the gold bullion said it was 20,000 metric tons. In either case, they said this put the value of gold in mid-1975 at around $8-billion, give or take a few million in change. Add this $8-billion in gold from Teresa-2 to the $6-billion in gold from the Nachi and in a matter of six months Marcos had been enriched by around $14-billion, thanks chiefly to the efforts of Olof Jonsson, Robert Curtis, and Ben Valmores. But during the next five years gold prices shot up to over $800 an ounce, making the Marcos hoard worth about fifteen times as much. Why, then did Marcos not pay Curtis and the others their share in the Leber Group recoveries, to keep them silent and ensure their cooperation for future recoveries? The short answer is that Marcos was a pathologically greedy, and would rather kill you than pay. (ibid, p. 179-83).
“When Japanese Army swarmed down the China Coast in 1937, crossed the Yangtze, and moved westward to Nanking, so many units were involved across such a broad front that there was danger of Japan’s ruling elite losing control of the financial side of the conquest, as rival commanders competed for spoils. How could you keep army or navy officers from side-tracking gold bullion and priceless art works, not to mention smaller scale theft by soldiers? At the same time, group of ‘yakuza’ were moving through newly occupied areas, conducting their own reign of terror. To keep everything under strict control at the highest level, the Imperial General Headquarters created Golden Lily (kin no yuri), named after one of Hirohito’s poems. This was to be a palace organization of Japan’s top financial minds and specialists in all forms of treasure including cultural and religious antiques, supported by accountants, bookkeeper, shipping experts, and units of the army and navy, all overseen by princes of the blood. When China was milked by Golden Lily, the army would hold the cow, while princess skimmed the cream. This organization was put directly under the command of the emperor’s brother, Prince Chichibu.” (Gold Warriors, p. 38).
“While the Golden Lily teams were hard at work plundering China, so were Japanese tycoons like Sumitomo Kichizaemon, head of Japan’s immense Sumitomo conglomerate. He specialized in looting Shang bronzes. Sumitomo began his collection with trophies stolen during the 1900 Siege of the Legations in Peking, and continued during the takeover of Manchuria and North China. But it was only during the eight year China Incident from 1937-1945, that he amassed the bulk of his collection, which ranks with that of Avery Brundage as one of the world’s finest.” (ibid, p. 40)
Author Charles McDougald (Asian Loot, ISBN 0-940777-08-8) had something to say also about the fabled Japanese loot:
“While in Hawaii, after being deposed from power, Marcos offered the sum of $15 billion worth of gold still in the Philippines in exchange with his family’s return and protection to the Philippines. The Cory government made a counter-offer. Marcos did not respond.”
“Marcos admitted the $15 billion was still in the Philippines and only he knew where it was hidden.
“This was the second time Marcos admitted that he still had gold buried in the Philippines. He mentioned on the Hirschfield tapes that $14 billion in gold was still buried there.” (ibid, p. 270).
“On 22 June in Washington, the Center for Democracy hosted a breakfast for five Philippine Legislators. Ablan and Sumulong were in attendance. They told Professor Allen Weinstein that Marcos would return substantial assets to the Philippines if he were allowed to go home, and asked Weinstein if he would help. He agreed to assist, so Marcos wrote a letter to him dated 11 July, stating that he would give $5 billion to the government if the following conditions were met: 1) He, his family, and his delegation could return to the Philippines and Ilocos Norte, 2) He and his family would have diplomatic and political immunity; 3) The Philippine government would drop all cases presently pending against him in the Philippines and any other country; 4) He would agree not to engage in political activities; 5) He and his family would be issued Philippine passports and could travel freely inside and outside the Philippines” (ibid, p 270).
Take note that the previous $15 billion offer was reduced to $5 billion because Marcos was employing middlemen in the process, though author McDougald was not certain if this second offer was the continuation of the previous one.
“Cory issued a statement that before her government would consider a compromise with Marcos; he must surrender to the government unconditionally the sum of $5 billion. “
Marcos denied having made any such offer.
In 1989, Marcos tried to borrow from Enrique Zobel the sum of $250 million so he can pay the accumulated bills for his staff/personnel in Hawaii. Zobel said he has no $250 million, but asked how Marcos would pay the loan back. Marcos asked his nurse, Teresita Gallego to fetch a folder. Zobel leafed through it. It was about an inch and a half thick and full of deposit certificates for gold stored in various banks all over the world – Switzerland, Monaco, the Vatican, the Bahamas, and other places. He didn’t have time to add up the total but estimated that, at $400 an ounce, the price of gold at that time, the value was roughly $35 billion.
Some of the certificates were dated in the forties after the Second World War. Marcos explained that he began accumulating gold toward the end of the war. He found some treasure, and also bought gold bars from soliders that had found them in debris of Yamashita’s retreating convoy. He reminted the bars in Hongkong in 1946, and accumulated more through various treasure hunts. The reason he kept it secret until now, Marcos said, was because other countries could have a legal claim to it until 1985. The statute of limitations in international law was for forty year period.
To most people that knew Marcos this story sounded a bit odd. He came from a poor family and he made his first million as a first-term congressman in 1949 selling import licenses. He bought a Cadillac to celebrate his new status. Before then, there was no outward indication of any wealth. When he courted Imelda in 1954, he brought her to a bank vault and showed her stacks of hundred-dollar bills, but no gold. Records found in the palace after he left showed that he didn’t open his first bank account abroad until 1967 when he deposited $215,000 in Chase Manhattan, he used his own name.
Marcos may have had some dealings with Minoru Fukumitsu and Venancio Duque in the fifties, but he didn’t start serious treasure hunting until he became president in 1965. It wasn’t until five years later that he announced that he had found the Yamashita treasure. (ibid, p. 274).
Here is Gold Warriors again:
After Gen. Yamashita surrendered on September 2, 1945, his driver, Major Kojima was tortured by Filipino-American intelligence officer, Severino Santa Romana, nicknamed Santy, so the major could reveal the whereabouts of Yamashita’s treasure.
The brutal interrogation of Major Kojima produced results that astounded everyone from General McArthur up to the White House, and became one of the biggest state secrets of the twentieth century. Even today it remains carefully obscured, by making archival records on this topic inaccessible for ‘reasons of national security.’
America had realized for some time that Japan was hiding plundered treasure in the Philippines, although the details were not shared with Britain or other Allies. During the last year of the war, for example, Americans fighting alongside Filipino guerillas observed a heavily laden Japanese hospital ship unloading bronze boxes at Subic Bay, near Manila. U.S. Navy Warrant officer John C. Ballinger, disguised as a fisherman, secretly photograph the vessel from a brightly painted Filipino fishing pirogue. It was not a real hospital ship. After studying the ship’s profile and comparing it with naval intelligence records, we were able to identify it as the fast liner Fuji Maru, built in 1937 which had been disguised with false superstructures, and huge crosses painted on her sides. As a fake hospital ship, the Fuji Maru was carrying war loot from Singapore to Manila for Prince Chichibu and Golden Lily. Ballinger’s unit, led by guerilla hero, Captain Medina, followed the convoy of army trucks carrying this odd cargo into the mountains. There, they watched Japanese soldiers lug the very heavy boxes into the cave. Ballinger had no idea what was in the, but it was clearly something of great value. Four men were needed to move each box, using a sling harness. When the Japanese sealed and disguised the cave entrance and left, the guerillas took several days to re-open the cave and found that the boxes inside contained 75-kilo gold bars. There were rows upon rows of boxes. Photographs of the ship, along with a report of the cave full of gold, were sent by submarine to McArthur’s intelligence headquarters in Australia, adding to many similar reports. According to Ballinger’s son Gene, his father assumed that he was reporting to the OSS, but nothing was that simple.
Some months later, when American troops landed on Leyte, Ballinger witnessed another movement of treasure by the Japanese. This time, a convoy of trucks carried heavy boxes out of Japanese headquarters in Baguio to a tunnel near a hospital on the outskirts town. Ballinger’s son Gene told us: “This was not a nearly as big secret at the time as the Japanese wanted it to be. They were in big hurry and made the mistake of not paying attention. Medina’s company kicked their ass and blew the tunnel shut – Japs and all.” A report on this action was also passed up the line by John Ballinger to ‘the OSS.’
The problem of how to deal with plundered treasure, and what to do with Axis gold after the war, was discussed in July 1944 when forty-four nations met at the resort at Breton Woods, New Hampshire, to plan the post-war economy. These discussions, some of them extremely secret, revealed the flaws and loopholes that existed in the international financial system, making any clear-curt resolution unlikely. Among the delegates, trust was far from universal. Many of them believed that the Bank of International Settlements was secretly laundering Nazi loot. That distrust set the tone. Among other things, the Breton Woods agreement (as it was made public) set a fixed price for gold at $35 an ounce, and banned the importation of gold to America for personal use Neutral countries that signed the pact promised not to knowingly kept stolen gold and other looted assets, but Portugal forgot to include Macao in the list of its dependent territories. This was a convenient oversight, for during the rest of the war Macao became a world center for trade in illicit gold and was heavily exploited by Japan. (ibid, p. 90-91).
Today, the Philippine government denies that Santa Romana (Santy) ever existed: “He’s just a legend.” Tell that to his family. We have interviewed his brother, his mistresses, and his children. We have visited his tombstone. We have amassed hundreds of documents, tapes, videos, eyewitness accounts, marriage licenses, conformation from senior CIA officials, Marcos family members, Santy’s business associates, bank records, and lawsuits – indisputable evidence from more than 60 years that Santa Romana is real, and that his vast fortune of cash and gold bullion sleeps in banks all over the world. The gold recovered by Santy became the asset base for many secret funds like the M-Fund. He was the gatekeeper of America’s Golden Lily recoveries, until Ferdinand Marcos moved in, elbowed him aside, and took over as the new gatekeeper.
After Santy completed his recoveries in 1947, there was a lull of twenty years before Marcos began making similar ones. During the late 1950s, small groups of Japanese returned quietly to the Philippines to recover gold under various pretexts. Some claimed to be seeking the remains of dead soldiers for Shinto burial in Japan. Tokyo offered to help Filipinos repair war damage ‘free’ infrastructure projects, including irrigation systems and roads that took unlikely routes through the mountains. Japanese salvage firms offered to remove the hulks cluttering up Manila Bay, and to dredge and restore the battered bay front; in the course of this work they salvaged ships that had been scuttled at the docks with bullion aboard. Japanese corporations built factories in odd locations throughout the Philippines, on foundations requiring deep excavations. When these factories were completed, Filipino workers on their assembly lines put together TVs and tape recorders, computers, refrigerators and air conditioners, which were then shipped to Japan in remarkably heavy crates. According to a CIA source, the Agency knew that gold bullion was being smuggled out of the Philippines this way, but did not interfere. The first time Marcos recovered gold was an accident, when he heard about two Japanese digging in Ilocos Norte, the home province of the Marcos family in the northwest corner of Luzon. Imperial Army veterans, they had a small stash of their own. Marcos confiscated their gold biscuit bars. As a sharp young politician, Marcos heard about Santy’s recoveries and cultivated him aggressively. Being a lawyer, Marcos could make him useful in many ways. Gradually, he began to take over parts of Santy’s operation, called the Umbrella. When he was elected president in 1965, Marcos was approached directly by Japanese underworld fixer Sasakawa Ryoichi, offering to do joint recoveries of war loot. A crony of Kodama, Sasakawa knew the location of a number of major vaults. For a substantial cut, Marcos could grant presidential authorizations. It was typical of Marcos to scavenge this way, rather than do treasure hunting himself. He did not hesitate to grant import permits for canned sardines long past their shelf life, knowing many Filipinos could die from eating them. He was equally happy to make deals with Japanese gangsters to enrich him, and impoverish Philippine people. (ibid p. 140-41).