Fugitive jueteng ‘auditor’ wants warrant quashed
They are crawling out of the woodwork.
After businessman Jaime Dichaves succeeded in getting the Sandiganbayan to quash an arrest warrant against him, another coaccused in the plunder case against deposed President Joseph Estrada is asking the antigraft court to do the same for her.
Yolanda Ricaforte has filed a motion asking the Sandiganbayan Special Division to withdraw the arrest warrant against her and to remand the plunder case against her to the Office of the Ombudsman for preliminary investigation.
The motion was filed for Ricaforte by lawyer Pacifico Agabin, who also represented Dichaves in his successful motion for a reinvestigation of his case and the quashing of his arrest warrant.
Ricaforte fled the country, reportedly for the United States, at the height of the corruption scandal that led to Estrada’s ouster and subsequent conviction for plunder in 2007. She is on the wanted list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to state prosecutors, Ricaforte acted as the auditor of the collections from illegal gambling payoffs to Estrada, and opened back accounts in her name where the payoffs were deposited. The Sandiganbayan issued the warrant for her arrest in 2001.
In her motion, Ricaforte said no preliminary investigation was conducted in the plunder case against her. She said she had left the country before the Office of the Ombudsman started its hearings into the plunder case against Estrada where she was included as a respondent.
She said that when the first complaint was filed, she was not included in the case. It was only in the supplemental complaint where her name was included, and it was on Feb. 2, 2001 when the Ombudsman issued an order for the respondents to file their comment.
This was why an affidavit she issued a month earlier, on Jan. 21, 2001, consisted only of general denials, she said. She said she did not receive a copy of the supplemental complaint.
Ricaforte said she never waived her right to a preliminary investigation, and was entitled to it as a constitutional right.
She also said she did not receive a copy of the Ombudsman’s April 4, 2001, resolution recommending the filing of charges against her, Estrada and several others, and there was no opportunity for her to file a motion for reconsideration.
Ricaforte also claimed in her motion that the plunder case against her stated facts that do not constitute an offense.
She said there was no allegation of criminal content in the amended charge sheet, and that the part that talked about criminal intent referred only to Estrada.
The charge sheet stated that Estrada acquired ill-gotten wealth by receiving or collecting illegal gambling bribes by himself or in connection with his coaccused.
She said she was denied due process as she was indicted as a conspirator when there was no allegation showing criminal intent.