Founder of messy Legacy group dies

Lala Rimando
Celso de los Angeles' death his extinguishes criminal liability and cases against him will be dismissed

MANILA, Philippines – Celso de los Angeles, the man behind one of the Philippines’ biggest financial scams, has died.

His lawyer, Noel Malaya, confirmed to Rappler that De los Angeles passed away Tuesday morning, March 27, at St. Luke’s hospital in Quezon City.

He had been suffering from cancer and had been on hospital arrest since 2009.

De los Angeles founded the Legacy Group of Companies which collapsed in 2009 amid allegations of Ponzi-like operations, leaving behind around P30 billion financial mess.

The group had a network of around 13 rural banks, a pre-need firm, as well as financing companies that served millions of clients all over the country. 

His downfall started when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas ordered the closure of his rural banks in December 2008 as these allegedly engaged in illegal activities. The central bank alleged that it was luring depositors with sky-high interest rates so it could funnel these to branches that were facing heavy withdrawals.

Previous efforts to pin De los Angeles down were unsuccessful as the businessman-turned-Albay mayor reportedly had friends (as well as clients) in high places, including those in Congress.

Several cases were filed by the BSP, deposit insurer PDIC, corporate regulator SEC, and some individual investors. Aside from de los Angeles, also named as respondents in these cases were his family members (he was separated from legal wife) and several executives who allegedly helped him commit the financial crimes. 

A few hours before a warrant of arrest was first issued against him, he started to complain of illnesses. With the diagnosis that he has throat cancer, he was put on hospital arrest instead. 

For a while, he stayed at a jail in Ormoc where a syndicated estafa case was also filed against him. But his lawyers eventually convinced the court to return him to St Luke’s Medical Center in 2011 since his health deteriorated.

The PDIC, which is partly funded by taxpayers, has reimbursed almost all Legacy rural bank clients, mostly small businessmen, tricycle drivers, wet market vendors, or pension-dependent senior citizens. The Legacy fallout set PDIC back by at least P12 billion.

De los Angeles is the 2nd Legacy-related death since the scandal broke out. Jesus Martinez, an SEC commissioner who reportedly accepted a house and luxury car as gift from Legacy, passed away in 2009. 

According to the BSP Lawyer handling the case, “[His death] extinguishes his criminal liability and the cases against him will be dismissed. But there are other accused persons in the cases, so the cases will continue against them.”

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