he Philippines has formally asked the United States to freeze the assets in the US of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, saying that the assets if proven to have been illegally obtained rightfully belonged to the Philippine government, a source privy to the discussions said on Friday.
The source, who talked to the Inquirer on condition that he will not be named, said Department of Justice (DOJ) officials recently went to the US Embassy in Manila to formally submit and discuss the request.
“The Philippine government requested that properties acquired by [Napoles] and her family be frozen pending resolution of the cases filed against them,” the source said.
The source explained that the freezing of the assets was to ensure that the stolen money can be returned to the Philippine Treasury should the properties be proved to have been illegally acquired.
“All identified assets here and abroad should be frozen pending the resolution of the cases,” the source said.
The US assets, mainly real estate, form part of the vast property holdings of Napoles estimated to be worth at least P5 billion based on the documents that a former bookkeeper of Napoles has submitted to the DOJ.
The request for the freezing of the Napoles assets was based on the plunder complaint that the DOJ has filed before the Ombudsman against Napoles, which is now in the preliminary stage, the source said.
Charged along with Napoles were three senators, five former House members, several dozen minor government officials and a few Napoles employees.
“These cases will then be filed in the Sandiganbayan where criminal trial and forfeiture proceedings will begin,” the source explained.
List of US properties
Among the Napoles properties in the United States identified in the request was the Anaheim Express Inn registered under the Western Investment Corp. with address at 620 W Orangewood Avenue, Anaheim, California.
Western Investment is allegedly owned by Napoles’ brother, Reynald Lim, and children, James Christopher and Jo Christine.
Also on the list were: a property at No. 32 Wedgewood, Canyon View, Irvine, California, also registered under Lim and his wife, Ana Marie Dulguime; a two-bedroom apartment in the swank Ritz-Carlton at 900 Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, registered in the name of another Napoles daughter, Catherine Jeane; a Covina County commercial property in Los Angeles, West Covina, registered under the Western Ventures Management Inc., with address at 19545 E. Cienega Avenue.
Western Venture’s two other addresses are Covina CA 91724 and 620 W. Orangewood Ave. Anaheim CA 92802.
Listed as officers of the company were Lim and two older Napoles children.
The source said US legal mechanisms under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty will be followed in the forfeiture proceedings.
Napoles has been accused of diverting billions of pesos of pork barrel funds, in connivance with corrupt lawmakers, government officials and other individuals, into dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that she controlled.
Benhur Luy, a former Napoles employee turned whistle-blower, said the detained businesswoman acquired most of her assets, estimated to reach P5 billion, after she managed to get hold of P900 million in 2009 from the Malampaya Fund intended for typhoon victims.
Luy, who has accused Napoles of masterminding the rackets that had defrauded the government of P10 billion in pork barrel funds over the past decade, said the bulk of the Napoles assets was purchased after the P900 million from the Malampaya Fund was released in December 2009 to 12 NGOs that she controlled.
Plunder charges have been filed against Napoles and 21 others, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and three former Arroyo Cabinet officials, in connection with the alleged misuse of the Malampaya Fund.
Based on the records of Napoles’ bookkeeper, the businesswoman reportedly owns at least 70 houses and condominium units and at least 50 of these properties have already been transferred to five companies that she allegedly controls.
The five companies—JCLN Global Properties and Development Corp., JLN Corp., JCLN Real Estate Development Consortium, La Roca Enterprises and RLG Solutions—are the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation based on allegations of fraud by the whistle-blowers and their lawyers, Stephen Cascolan and Lourdes Benipayo. see more