US wants to try Napoles and family for money laundering
Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, and members of her family are wanted in the United States for money laundering.
The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday it would seek the extradition of Napoles, her three children, brother and sister-in-law whom a federal grand jury charged with funneling in and out of the United States some $20 million in Philippine public funds, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Napoles, daughters Christine and Jeane, son James Christopher, brother Reynald Uy Lim and her brother’s wife, Ana Marie, were indicted in Los Angeles on July 31 for conspiracy to commit money laundering, domestic money laundering and international money laundering, the Attorney’s Office of Central District of California said in a statement.
“[W]e will work with our Philippine counterparts to secure the extradition of the defendants in the United States,” said Attorney Nick Hanna.
In Manila, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said his office was ready to lend a hand to US counterparts in prosecuting Napoles and members of her family.
Napoles is the alleged brains behind the pork barrel racket, in which Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of Philippine senators and congressmen were funneled into ghost projects of her nongovernment organizations.
The lawmakers, other officials and Napoles allegedly pocketed kickbacks from the ghost projects, which were supposed to benefit the poor.
Napoles, who is behind bars, faces a string of plunder and graft charges in the Sandiganbayan in connection with the PDAF scam.
A number of lawmakers and other officials have also been charged with plunder and graft.
Real estate, Porsches
The US justice department said about $20 million of the PDAF funds was wired to Southern California bank accounts to purchase real estate, shares in two businesses and two Porsche Boxers, and to finance the living expenses of Jeane Napoles, and couple Reynald and Ana Marie Lim in the United States.
It said the charges filed against Napoles and members of her family pertained to events starting in September 2012 until August 2014.
After Napoles was arrested in 2013 and her family’s banks accounts were frozen, she and her family “attempted to quietly liquidate the assets in the United States, secretly repatriate most of the resulting funds back to the Philippines and to other accounts in the US and United Kingdom,” the justice department said.
Some of the funds, it said, were used by Jeane Napoles to finance her lifestyle and open a fashion business.
“The efforts of the Philippine and American investigators demonstrate that there are consequences to abusing the public trust and we hope to deter such conduct in the future,” Hanna said.
The US Attorney’s Office has seized real estate in southern California worth about $12.5 million, court documents showed.
The real estate is subject to a civil forfeiture case before US District Judge James V. Selna.
US and Philippine officials will seek the return of the stolen funds to the Philippine government should the court order the assets forfeited, said the US justice department.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Dabile O’Brien, deputy chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section of the US justice department.
In Manila, Justice Secretary Guevarra said his office had been “quietly working” with American authorities in its investigation into the alleged money-laundering activities of Napoles and her relatives.
US case buildup
“The US Department of Justice, through its justice attaché in Manila, has kept us well-informed of its efforts to build up the case (against the Napoleses) in the US,” Guevarra said in atext message to the Inquirer.
“The Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) will extend all assistance to its US counterpart in prosecuting the money-laundering cases and in ensuring that our people’s money is returned in due time to our national treasury,” he said.
In February, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II temporarily provided state protection for Napoles after she applied as state witness.
But Guevarra ended her provisional admission into the Witness Protection Program on May 25 “as there has been no further claim of threats to her personal security” in her detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
He said Napoles and her lawyers did not seek a reconsideration of his decision.
“After the DOJ terminated Napoles’ provisional coverage, neither she nor her counsel has ever approached the DOJ again,” Guevarra said. —With a report from Marlon Ramos
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