Philippines goes after Estrada's personal assets

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MANILA, Nov 13 (Reuters) Former Philippines president Joseph Estrada could lose his cars, homes and bank accounts after an anti-graft court said today it would go after them to recover around 17 million dollars he illegally amassed while in power.

Estrada was found guilty of plunder but while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pardoned the former movie star and set aside his life imprisonment, the 70-year-old still has to pay around 729 million pesos worth of assets he illegally amassed from gambling kickbacks and a commission on a share sale.

Only 200 million pesos were left in two bank accounts detailed in court proceedings and court sheriff Ed Urieta said they would ask officials to freeze Estrada's four personal accounts to make up the difference.

Urieta said the court would look at cars and properties belonging to Estrada, famed for his ''midnight cabinet'' of drinking buddies and gamblers.

As part of September's ruling, Estrada had been ordered to hand over a luxurious Manila residence, nicknamed the ''Boracay Mansion'' because it had sand imported from the resort island of Boracay and a wave-generating machine for its pool.

But the house's roof had caved in and its contents, including gold-plated cutlery, were long gone by the time Estrada was convicted.

Estrada, who was elected in 1998 as a champion of the poor and ousted in an army-backed revolt in 2001, has said he will fight any attempt to seize assets he acquired before he became president.

''I worked for these assets with my own blood, sweat and tears,'' Estrada has said in earlier statements. ''I would not allow them to take what is rightfully mine.'' Estrada's lawyers said they would ask the higher court to stop the anti-graft tribunal seizing his personal assets beyond what was stated in the court's verdict on SeptEMBER 12.

REUTERS SKB RAI1513

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