MANILA – A US federal grand jury has indicted alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and 5 others for conspiring to funnel in and out of the US some $20 million in Philippine public funds obtained through a multi-year bribery and fraud scheme.
The US Department of Justice said in a statement released Tuesday that among those indicted for conspiracy to commit domestic and international money laundering were:
Janet Lim Napoles, 54
Jo Christine Napoles,34
Reynald Luy Lim, 52;
Ana Marie Lim, 47.
Three defendants, working with some 20 Filipino officials, funneled into the Napoles matriarch’s non-governmental organizations money from government funds, including lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund, said the US justice department.
Napoles’ NGOs were supposed to use the money for development projects, but did not do so and instead diverted the funds to “kickbacks for the legislators and other government officials, and for the personal use of the Napoles family,” the agency said.
Some $20 million of the funds, it said, 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 2 businesses, 2 Porsche Boxsters, and finance the living expenses of 3 family members in the US, Jeane Napoles and the Lims.
An audit discovered the fraud in September 2012. The fraud and the US proceeds were exposed in the Filipino press in July of the following year, the US justice department said.
Napoles was arrested in August 2013 and her family’s bank accounts were frozen in the Philippines.
“Napoles and her family then attempted to quietly liquidate the assets in the US, secretly repatriate most of the resulting funds back to the Philippines and to other accounts in the US and United Kingdom, and disburse some of the funds to Jeane Napoles, who used the money to finance her lifestyle and open a fashion business,” said the agency.
“Even after Jannet Napoles made a highly publicized statement admitting that she had bribed Philippine legislators in connection with these ‘ghost projects,’ the defendants attempted to convert the proceeds of this crime to their own use,” said US Attorney Nicola Hanna in the same statement.
“The efforts of the Philippine and American investigators demonstrates that there are consequences to abusing the public trust and we hope to deter such conduct in the future. To do this, we will work with our Philippine counterparts to secure the extradition of the defendants to the United States,” she added.
About approximately $12.5 million in the Napoles’ Southern California real estate has been seized by the US Attorney’s Office and is subject to a pending civil forfeiture case.
If the court orders the assets forfeited, the US will work with Philippine officials in an attempt to return the stolen funds back to the Philippine government, the US justice department said.
US authorities, it said, were coordinating with Manila’s justice department, Office of the Ombudsman, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and the Commission on Audit.
Napoles remains behind bars for her plunder and graft cases before the Sandiganbayan in relation to the pork barrel scam.
The government in February provisionally accepted Napoles as a state witness. She was removed from the WPP by the new justice secretary last May.