Atong Ang nabbed in Las Vegas
- Pia Lee-Brago () - November 28, 2001 - 12:00am
The hiding is over.

Fugitive businessman Charlie "Atong" Ang, one of the accused in the plunder case against deposed President Joseph Estrada, was arrested by US authorities last Sunday while gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada, officials said.

Ang may be detained there for as long as a year, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

At a press briefing, DFA spokesman Victoriano Lecaros said US marshals arrested Ang at a casino of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas at around 3 a.m.

"The arrest was made based on an extradition request by our Department of Justice (DOJ) with the US government. Further arrangements are now being made between the two governments so he can face charges here," Lecaros said.

US officials reported that after his capture, Ang tried to apply for bail but was denied. He was arraigned at the US Federal Court of Las Vegas, which scheduled the first hearing for Feb. 28, 2002.

Estrada is currently on trial for allegedly receiving billions of pesos in kickbacks from illegal gambling operations and tobacco excise taxes.

His close friend Ang and his alleged auditor Yolanda Ricaforte have been named co-respondents in the case. Ricaforte is believed hiding in Los Angeles, California and has yet to be caught.

Malacañang said President Arroyo was elated over the development and urged the DOJ and DFA to speed up the processing of documents for Ang’s extradition.

"She is happy over the cooperation of US authorities, who acted swiftly on information that Atong Ang did not have any travel documents," Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said.

The passports of the two co-accused were canceled by the DFA in January.
‘Christmas in jail’
Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said the US court proceedings for Ang’s extradition could last anywhere from six months to one year.

"He will be spending Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s in a US jail. With his arrest, it will only be a matter of time before Ricaforte will be also caught," he said.

Perez said an extradition request for another Estrada crony, businessman Jaime Dichaves, is also underway.

"As soon as the papers are complete, we will file the request with the US government," he said.

Dichaves has been charged by the Ombudsman for being the bagman of the former president.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Administration Franklin Ebdalin pointed out that Ang and Ricaforte could possibly escape the death penalty even if they are found guilty of plunder.

Ebdalin explained that the extradition treaty between the Philippines and the US stipulates that the extradition of a fugitive may only be granted if a requesting country commits not to impose the death penalty on a person charged.

He said the courts will have to take note of the provisions of the treaty. — With Delon Porcalla, Marichu Villanueva

ADMINISTRATION FRANKLIN EBDALIN ANG AND RICAFORTE ATONG ANG DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FEDERAL COURT OF LAS VEGAS FOREIGN AFFAIRS UNDERSECRETARY JAIME DICHAVES LAS VEGAS
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