ARTS & CULTURE

Vilma Bautista, Imelda Marcos' Ex-Secretary, Charged With Monet Water Lily Theft (SLIDESHOW)

11/21/2012 01:41 pm ET | Updated Nov 21, 2012

Looks like the secretary did it, not in the library with any blunt instrument, but outside the town house with a getaway van. Vilma Bautista, a former personal aide of the notoriously corrupt politician Imelda Marcos was indicted Tuesday for trying to sell four valuable paintings stolen decades years ago from the Manhattan outpost that Marcos and her husband Ferdinand, the former president of the Phillipines, used for parties.

Bautista, described in a 1986 New York Times report as "demure" and "quiet-spoken," has long been suspected of stealing the 19th and 20th century masterpieces, as well as information, antiques and other valuables. The paintings in question -- two of which are bona fide Monets -- disappeared from the town house's walls amidst the frenzy of the Marcos downfall in the mid-'80s. At the time, a suspicious van and Rolls Royce were reported by the new Philippine government as lingering outside the Upper East Side apartment.

Scroll down for images of the four stolen paintings.

According to the indictment, Bautista's nephews Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana and Pongsak Navalaksana played a key role in masterminding the plot to sell the paintings. They were able to sell only one, Monet's "Le Bassin aux Nymphease." The painting, part of the Impressionist master's famous Water Lily series, went for $32 million to a hesitant London buyer who was won over with false documentation. In an e-mail quoted in the indictment, the nephews referred to the Monet as the "most precious one."

2012-11-21-monet.jpeg

Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphease” (also known as “Japanese Footbridge Over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny”), 1899

The defendants face conspiracy charges as well as tax-fraud charges for not reporting the income made from the sale of the Monet. Bautista could serve up to 25 years in prison, and her nephews could serve four, the Times reports.

Bautista's attorney Fran Hoffinger called the case a "civil dispute" that "doesn't belong in criminal court."

Paintings Stolen During Marcos Regime Collapse

Also on HuffPost:

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS