U.S. indicts Napoles family for money laundering

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The United States Department of Justice announced on Wednesday, August 1, that a federal grand jury had indicted Janet Lim Napoles and members of her family for domestic and international money laundering and conspiracy for transferring to the US $20 million of her alleged earnings from the pork barrel scam.

Napoles, her children Jo Christine, James Cristopher, and Jeane Catherine, her brother Reynald Luy Lim, and his wife Ana Marie were indicted for “quietly liquidating the assets in the United States," the US justice department said.

“Approximately $20 million of those 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, Reynald Lim, and Ana Lim,” the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a press statement.

It said the case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel O’Brien, Deputy Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.

The indictments are related to the pork barrel scam. Janet is on trial for 5 counts of plunder connected to the misuse of discretionary funds of 5 lawmakers, the most prominent of whom are former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.

There is also a civil forfeiture case pending before United States District Judge James V. Selna involving approximately $12.5 million in Southern California real estate which have already been seized by the US government.

“If the court orders the assets forfeited, the United States will work with Philippine officials in an attempt to return the stolen funds back to the Philippine government,” said the US Attorney’s Office.

The Philippines' Court of Tax Appeals had earlier dismissed the tax evasion case against Jeane, which stemmed from alleged non-payment of taxes for a luxurious apartment in Los Angeles, California, and a farm lot in Bayambang, Pangasinan.  (READ: Why the Napoles children are co-accused in the pork barrel scam)

Extradition 

United States Attorney Nick Hanna said they will work with the Philippine government to extradite the defendants to the US.

Janet, however, is detained in the Philippines for 3 counts of plunder, for which she has not been able to secure bail yet. 

The Philippines said it is ready to extradite the family members of Napoles who are in the country. 

On the extradition of Napoles’ relatives who face money laundering charges in the US, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, “ We shall continue to extend legal assistance to our US counterparts, including the possible extradition of certain persons who might be found here.”

Guevarra said the Philippines’ justice department has been quietly working with its US counterpart in building up a money laundering case against the Napoles family.

He welcomed the indictment of the alleged pork scam mastermind and her family members in the US, “as it paves the way for the return of the people’s money to our national treasury.” 

Open line

The US indictments may affect the existing pork barrel scam cases, but only insofar as to the additional details it can provide, according to Guevarra.

He noted that the US Attorney's Office statement mentioned unnamed lawmakers.

“As in the past, we are ready to consider all available evidence, regardless of the source, so that true and complete justice may be served,” Guevarra said.

He said the US indictment does not prevent the Department of Justice from keeping an open line with Napoles if she “has something to divulge further.”

Guevarra earlier took Napoles out of the Witness Protection Program, citing lack of evidence that there are threats to her life.

“With or without WPP protection, the DOJ is certainly willing to listen,” Guevarra said. 

A positive development

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque called the indictment against Napoles "a positive development" which "bolsters the government's case against her before the Sandiganbayan" and makes it imperative to charge "those who illegally profited from her transactions, regardless of position of political affiliation." 

Roque said, "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 (PDAF) scam."

"With the help of U.S. 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," he added. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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