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MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Business tycoon Ramon S. Ang filed an estafa complaint against GMA Network Chairman and CEO Felipe Gozon and his family members for allegedly swindling him of P1 billion ($21.87 million) in their talks for Ang to buy shares in the TV network.
In a 19-page complaint filed with the Department of Justice on July 27, Ang accused Gozon and 9 other GMA stockholders of committing syndicated estafa. The crime is a non-bailable offense.
Ang said the Gozons never returned his P1-billion downpayment for his planned purchase of 34% of GMA7’s shares – despite an agreement stipulating a return of the money should negotiations eventually fail.
The talks between both sides collapsed in June. GMA Network announced the breakdown of negotiations through a disclosure at the Philippine Stock Exchange, catching Ang by surprise.
He dropped hints then that he was considering legal action. “I am consulting with my lawyer and I am awaiting for an explanation.”
Aside from the Gozon patriarch, also charged were the family members of the Gozon group of the FLG Management Corporation, namely Felipe M. Gozon Jr., Anna Teresa Gozon-Abrogar, and Ismael Augusto S. Gozon. Other respondents to the case were stockholders of GMA Network Belinda G. Madrid, Ma. Erlinda G. Gana, Jaime Javier Gana, Florencia Gozon Tarriela, Edgar Tarriela, and Tricia T. Valderrama.
Ang spared other GMA major stockholders in the complaint, such as Menardo R. Jimenez Sr. of the Jimenez group and Gilberto R. Duavit Jr. for the Duavit group, because he said both parties indicated their intention to return the downpayment.
Ang, CEO of conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, alleged that all the elements of estafa are present in the case. “First element: Money received in trust or under obligation to return the same; second element: Misappropriation or conversion of such money by the offender; third element: Prejudice or damage and; fourth element: Demand.”
The businessman argued: “It is public knowledge that prior to the transaction with the undersigned complainant (Ang), the respondents had also sought investments from other people, most prominently Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan of Metro Pacific Investments. After the transaction with Mr. Pangilinan did not push through, the respondents negotiated with the complainant (who is obviously a member of the general public). While the sale to the complainant likewise failed to push through, respondents succeeded in defrauding him of his P1 billion downpayment which respondents misappropriated.”
Check in Gozon’s name
Ang said the manager’s check that he paid amounting to P1 billion ($21.87 million) was in the name of the Gozon patriarch.
The case is yet another twist in the Ang-GMA saga.
As early as June 2014, Ang announced that the planned acquisition of at least 30% stake in GMA was a done deal. The shareholders of GMA and Ang were in fact looking at signing the purchase agreement as early as November 2013.
The breakdown in talks last June 2015 was the fifth time that the broadcast giant terminated acquisition talks with a possible investor; and analysts said it could be because of a higher offer or a price no one can afford.
Some stock analysts speculated that the broadcast network might want more than what Ang had offered. (READ: Why Ang-GMA talks collapsed)
In Ang’s complaint before the DOJ, he cited the so-called term sheet containing the obligation for both sides to negotiate in good faith during the “exclusivity period” covering the negotiations.
The exclusivity period was originally until April 20, 2014 and extended until June 30, 2014 and was further extended – through mutual consent – until it finally ended on November 15, 2014, according to Ang.
Following the exclusivity arrangement, Ang said he deposited P1 billion ($21.87 million) as his downpayment through a manager’s check payable to Gozon, who shall hold the money in trust for the othe major stockholders, Ang said.
“It was also expressly agreed that in the event the terms and conditions of the transaction documentation are not finalized and concluded by the parties within the exclusivity period, the downpayment *shall be returned to the purchaser *not later than 3 working days from the expiration of the exclusivity period without need of any further notice or demand,” Ang said.
The Gozons never returned the money, he claimed.
Asked for comment, GMA Network vice president for corporate communications Angel Cruz replied in a text message Monday: “We have not received a copy of the complaint. Our legal counsel will respond accordingly in due time.”
The DOJ is expected to form a panel to look into the merits of the case and whether it can stand in court. – with reports from Chrisee Dela Paz/Rappler.com
$1 = P45.72