MANILA, Philippines — Jeane Catherine Napoles, the youngest daughter of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, returned to the Philippines on Friday, one of the family lawyers said.
“Jeane arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at exactly 3:35 a.m. on Friday. I personally fetched her for the reason that the family is concerned of any eventuality in light of her recent indictment in the US,” counsel Ian Encarnacion told The STAR.
On Friday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the media that Jeane Catherine left the Philippines on July 27 based on records of the Bureau of Immigration.
Guevarra, however, said he had no knowledge of where Jeane was heading.
Jeane’s departure from the Philippines came days before the US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday her indictment by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit money laundering, domestic money laundering and international money laundering concerning the wealth that her mother supposedly amassed from the pork barrel fund scam.
Also indicted by the jury were Napoles, her two other children Jo Christine and James Christopher and her brother Reynaldo Lim and his wife Ana Marie.
Guevarra said that aside from Jeane, all the other indicted members of the Napoles family are still in the Philippines.
Encarnacion confirmed Jeane left for Indonesia on July 27, but stressed that the trip had no connection with her recent indictment.
“It was a purely business trip. She sourced raw materials for a clothing business of a friend. The flight was booked sometime in June when we had no knowledge yet of any indictment,” Encarnacion said.
Encarnacion said Jeane’s return on Friday was also scheduled and not out of fear that she might get arrested on foreign soil.
“She is ready to face the cases against her. We will exhaust all legal remedies available to prevent her possible extradition to the US. We maintain her innocence and we look forward to having these cases dismissed,” Encarnacion said.
Justice Secretary Guevarra confirmed Jeane Catherine returned to the country last Friday.
“She flew back yesterday from Denpasar, Indonesia via Zest Air,” Guevarra said.
Jeane Catherine has no pending cases in the Philippines following the Court of Tax Appeals’ dismissal of her P17.46-million tax evasion cases in December last year.
Encarnacion also revealed that he and some other lawyers were on the way to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig to meet with Napoles and the other members of the family.
“We will be having initial discussions on our legal strategy, on how we will go about these new cases and the possibility of extradition,” Encarnacion said but refused to elaborate.
Napoles is detained at Camp Bagong Diwa on five counts of plunder and multiple counts of graft and malversation pending before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Jo Christine and James Christopher are also facing graft and malversation cases at the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork scam but they are currently out on bail.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang earlier said they have jurisdiction over the Napoles family members facing cases at the anti-graft court. This means their extradition may only come after the cases are resolved.
When asked if the Sandiganbayan can temporarily relinquish its jurisdiction over the Napoleses in light of an existing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between the Philippines and the US, Tang said: “That is something that has to be studied. There is no SC (Supreme Court) decision yet on that issue that can guide us.”
On the possibility that Napoles would be extradited, Guevarra said the DOJ would provide security for whistle-blower Benhur Luy if he would have to give his testimony before the US courts.
“If he’s requested to testify by US prosecutors, we can make the proper security arrangements,” Guevarra said.
Another option is for the prosecutors from the US government to come to the Philippines to personally get Luy’s sworn statement.
“US prosecutors may simply take his deposition in the Philippines in the presence of defense counsel,” Guevarra added.
Luy had testified that he sent government funds to the alleged accounts of Napoles in the US. He said public funds from former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. reportedly went to the implementing agencies while some were wired to the US.
In its statement released on Wednesday, the US justice department said that based on investigation, Napoles had some $20 million she had amassed from the pork barrel fund scam transmitted to her US bank accounts. The amount was used for the purchase of assets including real estate and dozens of luxury vehicles.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said Napoles and her family members attempted to quietly liquidate their assets in the US and secretly repatriate most of the resulting funds back to the Philippines and to other accounts in the US and the United Kingdom when the issue came to light in the media.
It also said part of the amount was withdrawn and used to finance the lifestyle and open a fashion business for Jeane Catherine.
Napoles, the report added, had also used the money for her real estate binge, purchase of shares in numerous businesses and for financing the lifestyle of her other family members.
It was reported that in 2015, the US government won a court order to freeze the $12.5 million worth of assets bought by Napoles and others using the alleged stolen funds.
The DOJ had earlier turned down Napoles’ application for witness protection in her bid to be a state witness in the pork scam. – Evelyn Macairan
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