MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is assessing the filing of tax evasion charges against Janet Lim-Napoles, but admits that her ownership of many properties is not easy to prove.
BIR chief Kim Henares told reporters on Thursday, September 5, that most of the 30 or so properties reportedly owned by Napoles are under other people’s names.
“It seem like there are a lot [of properties under different names] or that they’ve done some sort of layering. Of course we pursue the layers, we check who are the stockholders, see if their names are there – that’s how we’re running the investigation. It’s not so simple,” she said.
She explained this is why it is taking longer for them to file the case.
This will not deter the BIR, however, as the agency is probing into the layers of ownership that could lead them to Napoles.
“What I can say now is, the investigation is ongoing. More than anyone else here, the one who wants to complete the investigation would be me. So it’s not complete. We’re preoccupied with it. We want to complete it. It’s either there is something that needs to be filed, something to be assessed, or there is nothing,” she said.
Henares also said Napoles’ own arrogance may help the agency in its investigation.
“I’m not saying she’s a thief or a criminal. If I do something [illegal], of course I will try to hide my track. But that’s why she’s in hot water, she didn’t hide her tracks, right? Which means the legal title may have been hidden but her arrogance exposed things, and that’s how properties were identified,” she said.
She declined to mention how many of the properties are legitimately listed under Napoles’ name.
Whistleblowers say Napoles, the alleged mastermind of a multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam which involved conniving with lawmakers to pocket their Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF), own 30 properties both here and abroad.
Another Rappler story showed however that Napoles’ companies reported earnings of less than P1-million.
Henares said she is working alongside other government agencies, and using the evidence they have gathered. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) under the Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently mulling plunder charges against Napoles as well.
She said they are also looking into individuals whose names are on the properties allegedly owned by Napoles, and seeing if they are paying the right taxes. They are asked to execute affidavits.
“When we cooperate with an agency, the first thing we say is, ‘Can you search in your database if you have all the assets under the person’s name?’ So it will generate, and we will see it and we can ask for the deed of sale. The ones generated, they don’t match the 30 real properties…. I can say there is a lot that did not match,” she said.
One of those properties include a Forbes property that whistleblowers say are owned by Napoles, but is listed under a certain La Roca Enterprises Inc. The same Rappler report found that the method Napoles uses to acquire property appears to be similar to how she sets up dubious companies allegedly used to pocket lawmakers’ pork barrel money – using names of other individuals and not her own.
Henares added that, so far, there have been no properties under the original list of 30 that have been found under her name.
Finding foreign properties of Napoles, however, is easier, said Henares.
“Checking is easier. We are coordinating with foreign government. With the foreign government, even their bank accounts, we can access. Here we can’t,” she said, referring to the bank secrecy laws in the Philippines.
But Henares gave assurances it was not necessary for all the properties to be under her name in order for the BIR to file tax evasion cases.
“Let’s say you didn’t file your income tax return but you own a property in one village. You don’t have a [tax] report but your house is worth P3-4 million… the mere fact you have P4 million and not report it [is tax evasion],” she said. – Rappler.com