Case File: Yamashita's Treasure
Description: The treasure included bars of gold, jewelry and statues including a Golden Buddha containing diamonds.
History: Roger Roxas was a locksmith living on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. He was also part of a group of amateur treasure hunters. Another member of the group was Albert Fuchigami, whose father was a Japanase Army officer. When he was younger, his father had shown him a map that showed where large amounts of gold bars were buried in a tunnel system in the Philippines. From memory, he was able to re-create the map.
In 1970, Roger, Albert, and his group were able to locate the tunnel system, complete with railroad tracks. They discovered that the Japanese had apparently dynamited some of the entrances. After several weeks, they created a small tunnel around one of the dynamited entrances. They found several skeletons of Japanese soldiers who had apparently been trapped when their exits were sealed off.
A few minutes later, while digging in the ground, a part of the floor collapsed. Underneath, they found a Gold Buddha, along with gold bars and other treasures. It is believed that the treasure was taken from another Southeast Asian country.
Roger and his group decided to dynamite the entrance to keep the treasure safe. They took the Buddha and planned to sell it. They planned to then use that money for trucks and other equipment that could be used to unload the gold bars and other treasure. A prospective buyer confirmed that the Buddha was solid gold. He offered 1 million pesos, or $160,000, as a down payment. After the buyer left, Roger and his brother took a closer look at the Buddha. They found an opening on the Buddha; inside were several handfuls of diamonds.
The relics they discovered appeared to be the lost treasure of Yamashita. Roger and his brother tried to keep the discovery a secret, but word soon spread about the gold Buddha. Two months later, in June of 1971, Ferdinand Marcos sent men to capture the treasure. The armed men broke in and ransacked Roger's home. The prospective buyer also arrived, having worked with the men and Marcos. Along with the treasure, the men also took jewelry, money, and other precious items from the Roxas family.
The next day, Roger and his brother reported the incident to local police. They also met with Judge Pio Marcos, a family friend. He said that there was nothing he could do, because the president wanted the items. He told Roger that he was in danger and that he and his family should leave immediately. He and his family fled to an isolated village.
The press was allowed to view and take pictures of the Buddha, but some believed that it was a fake. One opposing official of Marcos convinced Roger to come to the palace to identify the Buddha, and he agreed. He confirmed that it was not the same Buddha; the color was different and its head would not come off.
Two weeks later, Roger was arrested by the Palace guards and interrogated about the Buddha. They tried to force him to sign a confession, stating that the Buddha was real and that he had been paid off by the opposition party. When he refused, they brought in a crude electro-shock machine, which used car batteries. They shocked him and tortured him, demanding that he tell them where he found the Buddha and the gold. They threatened to hurt his family if he did not tell them the location.
Roger claimed that he endured hours of torture that permanently damaged the nerves around his left eye. However, earlier he had promised to Albert that he would not tell anyone the location of the treasure. He planned to keep his promise. He claims that he was held at a hotel in Manilla and tortured daily for several weeks. Finally, he agreed to sign a document, claiming that he had been paid off by the opposition party.
His captors allowed the worst of his wounds to heal. Then, they took him to a courthouse and had him photographed pointing to the Buddha. He was briefly released and reunited with his family. However, just minutes later, the guards returned and took him back to the hotel. Luckily, due to his locksmith skills, he was able to escape from the bathroom.
He and his family again went into hiding. Eventually, he and his wife divorced. He has since re-married but has not seen the golden Buddha since 1971. He currently lives in an undisclosed location in the Phillipines. He believes that Marcos's large wealth can partially be attributed to the gold bars that were found in the tunnels with the Buddha.
In 1975, two witnesses claim to have seen the Buddha at one of Marcos's summer palaces. It is believed that the statute is being hidden by one of his relatives. Roger still hopes to find the Buddha. A suit has been filed against the Marcos estate.
Background: General Tomoyuki Yamashita was a Japanese military commander who defended Malaysia from invading British, Australian and Indian forces.
Ferdinand Marcos was the president and virtual dictator of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He died in Hawaii in 1989.
Extra Notes: This case originally ran on the January 27, 1993 episode.
Results: Unsolved. Roger Roxas passed away on May 25, 1993, which was the day he was to testify in court to his claim. He leaves behind an organization to carry on his suit against the estate of Ferdinand Marcos. However, the Buddha has yet to be located.
- Yamashita's Treasure on Unsolved.com
- Yamashita treasure on Wikipedia
- Roger Roxas on Wikipedia