Napoles daughter flees PH
The youngest daughter of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged architect of the P10-billion pork barrel racket, fled the country a few days before the US government indicted them for money laundering, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disclosed on Friday.
Citing information from the Bureau of Immigration, Guevarra said Jeane Catherine Napoles left on July 27, or four days before a federal grand injury in California ordered six members of her family to stand trial for allegedly funneling in and out of the United States some $20 million in “Philippine public funds.”
Jeane Catherine once incurred public ire for her lavish lifestyle and was sued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue for tax evasion after she failed to declare her ownership of a P55-million condominium unit at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles, California.
Besides her and her mother, also indicted were her sister Jo Christine, brother James Christopher, uncle Reynald Luy Lim and aunt Ana Marie.
Others still in PH
Guevarra said Philippine authorities did not know what country Jean Christine had flown to.
Immigration records showed that all the other members of the family are still in the country, he added.
The justice secretary said it was up to the antigraft court Sandiganbayan to decide whether it would allow Napoles to be extradited to the US prior to the conclusion of her trial for a string of plunder and graft charges.
“Another option is to surrender her temporarily to the US authorities until the money laundering trial has been completed,” Guevarra told the Inquirer.
“But the Sandiganbayan will have the last say on that as it has already acquired jurisdiction over the person of Janet Napoles,” he said.
Napoles, who is detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, is accused of mapping out an intricate scheme to siphon off the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, of lawmakers to her network of spurious foundations.
A number of legislators, including three senators, and their staffers had been indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman.
As a matter of policy, Guevarra said that only Filipino citizens who are not facing criminal cases in the Philippines may be extradited.
“Napoles family members who have no pending criminal cases here may be the subject of extradition to the US to face the money-laundering charges there,” he said.
A recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which declared as unconstitutional the travel ban order issued by former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, prohibited Guevarra from barring any member of the Napoles family from flying out of the country.
He said the Department of Justice “has no statutory power to restrain the travel of persons of interest, especially if they are not facing any investigation here.”
“But considering that an indictment has already been made in US courts, the US government has ways of tracking down the defendants anywhere, including tapping the assistance of the Interpol,” Guevarra said.
De Lima, who is detained at Camp Crame on what she has described as trumped-up drug charges, said the US indictment of the Napoles family members was “welcome news, given the fact that the present Duterte administration has made it a point instead to release plunderers and partner with them instead of prosecuting them.”
“With the US indictment of Napoles and her family, we can at least rely on justice being done for us in another country while injustice continues to reign in our own,” she said.
De Lima, who was elected senator in 2016, reminded the public that it was President Duterte’s administration, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, who sought the acquittal of Napoles on charges of serious illegal detention.
“The US indictment of Napoles and family is a clear repudiation of the Duterte government’s efforts through then Justice Secretary Aguirre to rehabilitate Napoles and use her against uncooperative legislators,” she said. —WITH A REPORT FROM CATHRINE GONZALES
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