“We can surrender her temporarily to the US authorities so that her trial for money laundering could be completed in the US,” Guevarra told The STAR by phone.
Michael Varcas
Philippines may extradite Napoles
Edu Punay, Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - August 3, 2018 - 1:00am

Luy: Porkscam proceeds wired to Janet US accounts

MANILA, Philippines — With her indictment for money laundering in the United States, suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles may be extradited and the cases against her in the local courts – including five counts of plunder – suspended, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

“We can surrender her temporarily to the US authorities so that her trial for money laundering could be completed in the US,” Guevarra told The STAR by phone.

“That is one of the two legal options under our extradition treaty if the US officially requests the extradition of Janet Napoles,” he explained.

An extradition is possible if requested by the US government pursuant to an extradition treaty with Manila, he said.

The other option under the treaty, he said, is for extradition to proceed after her cases with the Sandiganbayan are terminated or resolved.

Under such scenario, Napoles’ extradition to the US would have to wait for more years, considering that she has many cases pending with the anti-graft court.

State witness and former Napoles relative and employee Benhur Luy could also be tapped by US authorities to testify in the money laundering case against her, Guevarra said.

“As to Benhur Luy, if he will be needed to testify as a witness in the US courts, he may go there voluntarily if he has no pending court cases here, or his deposition may be taken here by the US prosecutors in the presence of defense counsel. That’s their call,” the justice chief said.

Yesterday, Luy told the Sandiganbayan First Division that he used to transfer cash to Napoles’ bank accounts in the US.

“Pinapa-telegraphic po namin sa US, sa kanyang accounts (We used to wire the money to her accounts in the US),” Luy said, referring to Napoles.

Luy was testifying in the continuation of the trial of the graft cases against Napoles, former senator Ramon Revilla Jr. and his former aide Richard Cambe.

Napoles and five family members have been indicted in the US for allegedly laundering some $20 million in public funds obtained through the pork barrel fund scam.

Napoles, her children Jo Christine, James Christopher and Jeane Catherine; her brother Reynaldo and his wife Ana Marie were indicted by a federal grand jury for the crime of conspiracy to commit money laundering, domestic money laundering and international money laundering.

She is currently detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa detention center in Taguig City.

Earlier, the DOJ chief explained that only her co-accused not facing any case in the Philippines could be immediately extradited to the US.

PDAF conversion

In the charge sheet, the federal grand jury accused Napoles and other defendants of fraudulently converting money from the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The money was paid to dozens of non-governmental organizations controlled by Napoles and diverted as kickbacks to legislators and other government officials, and for the personal use of the Napoles family.

It said approximately $20 million of the funds were diverted to money remitters in the Philippines and then wired to Southern California bank accounts where the money was used to purchase real estate, shares in two businesses, two Porsche Boxsters and finance the living expenses of three family members residing in the United States: Jeane Napoles and the Lim couple.

It was reported that approximately $12.5 million in Southern California real estate had been seized by the US Attorney’s Office and is now subject of a civil forfeiture case pending before US District Judge James Selna.

If the court orders the forfeiture of the assets, the US would promptly work with Philippine officials for the return of the stolen funds to the Philippine government.

The money laundering case involved activities by the defendants from September 2012 to August 2014.

In September 2012, an audit discovered the fraud and the US proceeds were exposed in July 2013. Napoles was arrested in August 2013 and her bank accounts in the Philippines were frozen.

This prompted her family members to quietly liquidate her US assets, repatriate most of the resulting funds back to the Philippines and to other accounts in the US and United Kingdom, and disburse some of the funds to Jeane Napoles, who used the money to finance her lifestyle and open a fashion business.   

At the Sandiganbayan yesterday, during direct examination by the prosecution team, Luy said that millions of pesos in public funds drawn from the PDAF or pork barrel of Revilla were transferred to the government implementing agencies (IAs) for the senator’s supposed livelihood projects.

Luy said the IAs then released the funds to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) formed by Napoles.

Luy said there were several instances when the amounts deposited in the bank accounts of NGOs were transferred to Napoles’ bank accounts in the US upon her order. He did not say how much was really transferred to Napoles’ accounts.

His lawyer Jam Calnea declined to comment when asked if US authorities had communicated intention to tap him as witness in the money laundering case in the US.

Luy himself refused to comment when asked if he is willing to testify against Napoles before a US court.

“No comment. I am not allowed to speak anything about that... I’m concentrating on testifying here in (local) court,” Luy said in English and Filipino.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said they were looking forward to the return of the $20 million to the government.

“With the help of US authorities, who have been in continuous coordination with our government, the funds that Mrs. Napoles and her co-defendants attempted to hide away will soon be returned for the benefit of the Filipino people,” Roque said.

“We view the United States federal grand jury indictment against Mrs. Janet Lim-Napoles as a positive development, as it bolsters the government’s case against her before the Sandiganbayan,” he pointed out.

“The charge of money laundering against Mrs. Napoles and her co-defendants shows that there is reason to believe that they attempted to retain the ill-gotten gains from the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam,” Roque added.

He said all those involved in PDAF misuse should be prosecuted and put behind bars.

“As more of Mrs. Napoles’ schemes come to light, it becomes imperative to charge all those who illegally profited from her transactions, regardless of their position or political affiliation,” he stressed.  –  Christina Mendez

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