MANILA Relatives of pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, who had been indicted for allegedly conspiring to illegally transmit Philippine government funds worth USD20 million to the United States, can be extradited provided that they are not facing charges in the country, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they are now checking with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on whether Napoles' relatives who are named in the money laundering complaint are still in the country.
Those (indicted Napoles kin) who are here and not facing charges in Philippine courts may be the subject of a request for extradition; those who are in the US may be immediately arrested, Guevarra said in text message to reporters.
We shall continue to extend legal assistance to our US counterparts, including the possible extradition of certain persons who might be found here, he added.
On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice said Napoles, her children Jo Christine, James Christopher and Jeane, brother Reynald Lim and his wife Ana, were indicted for money laundering and conspiracy.
American prosecutors said the money was used to purchase assets in the US, including property and luxury vehicles.
Guevarra, however, stressed that the cases against Napoles in the Philippines would have to be settled first before she can be extradited to the US.
Although we cannot extradite Napoles until her cases in Philippine courts have been terminated, the DOJ will extend all assistance to its US counterpart in prosecuting the money laundering cases, and in ensuring the people's money is returned in due time to our national treasury, he added.
The Justice Department has yet to receive a copy of the formal indictment from its American counterpart.
From what I know, there is a separate case for civil forfeiture in the US that will trigger the return of the laundered money to the Philippines. However, that forfeiture case will have to await the outcome of the money laundering and other fraud cases against Napoles and her family, Guevarra said.
He added that two options are available concerning Napoles' possible extradition to the US: (1) defer extradition proceedings until the Philippine case is terminated and/or she has served her sentence; or (2) temporarily surrender her to the requesting state so that she may be prosecuted there, subject to terms and conditions as may be agreed upon by the Philippines and the US.
The US has to file a formal request for the Philippine justice department to commence extradition proceedings in a domestic court, which will then determine whether Napoles is extraditable.
Napoles is being accused of creating bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or the so-called Napoles NGOs that connived with politicians and government officials in the country in a scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund. Politicians and lawmakers allegedly got kickbacks from the scam.
Former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., their staff and several other politicians and government officials have been tagged in the scam.
Napoles is currently detained at a detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, after a legal intervention of Solicitor General Jose Calida paved the way for her acquittal by the Court of Appeals in May last year.
She spent only two years at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City following a guilty verdict meted out to her by a Makati City judge for the serious illegal detention of her cousin Benhur Luy, the primary whistleblower in the scam.
Napoles has previously filed several petitions before the Supreme Court seeking to stop her indictment in the PDAF cases, but these were all dismissed.
Source: Philippine News Agency