Napoles ‘sent millions of dollars to US in suitcases’
Janet Lim-Napoles amassed millions of dollars from two local money changers and sent them to the United States, without central bank approval, either through bank-to-bank transfers or hand-carried in suitcases that were cleared through US airports by Filipino contacts there, the Inquirer has learned.
The dollars were acquired to purchase properties in the United States, supply the needs of lawmakers traveling abroad, and provide allowances for Napoles’ family on their frequent trips overseas, according to Stephen Cascolan, counsel for a group of whistle-blowers who were former employees of the businesswoman.
Cascolan said Napoles, the alleged brains of a P10-billion racket that turned allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, into ghost projects and kickbacks, had “millions of dollars abroad to purchase prime properties.”
The government has asked the US Embassy in Manila to freeze assets of Napoles in the United States and turn these over if proven to have been illegally obtained.
Cascolan said the method purportedly employed by Napoles to remit money abroad in violation of Philippine laws penalizing the salting of foreign exchange abroad would form part of the evidence to be submitted to Washington to recover her illegally acquired properties in the United States.
Napoles is facing plunder charges, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, and 34 other people.
Affidavits executed by the whistle-blowers and submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation said Napoles bought dollars from money changers identified as Hector Ang and Michael Ty.
“Transactions of dollar conversions and purchases from them were paid through their accounts in Metrobank with the equivalent peso value,” said Marina Sula, a former Napoles employee.
In his affidavit, Benhur Luy, a former Napoles aide who was detained by the businesswoman in a bid to prevent him from revealing the scam, said Napoles would give orders to him and other employees to contact either Ang or Ty and purchase dollars from them.
“Before they would give us the dollars, the equivalent peso amount should have already been deposited into the accounts of Ty or Ang, inclusive of bank charges,” said Luy, who has filed charges of serious illegal detention against Napoles, for which she is now under detention.
Deposits were made in the name of Hector Ang–SA No. 073-300931776-7, MBTC (Metrobank), Magdalena branch; and Michael Ty–SA No. 600-3600-02018-9, MBTC, Dasmariñas branch, both in Manila.
The whistle-blowers said Napoles also engaged Esquire International Financing Corp. and Edzen Enterprises to remit US currency abroad.
Sula said the dollars were either deposited in various bank accounts abroad or personally brought out when she and her family went on extended vacations abroad. She said that Napoles and her family usually took a three-month vacation and brought “lots of cash when they leave.”
She said that Napoles and her family sometimes brought with them dollars packed in their suitcases on their trips to the United States, where they were met by her brother, a US citizen.
“The money is not detected because Reynald Luy Lim has contacts, who are Filipinos, in the airport of destinations where the suitcase with their cash easily clears customs,” Sula said.
Sula added that Ty and Ang would bring their available currency to one of the houses of Napoles, at No. 9 Narra St. Forbes Park, Makati City.
She said that Napoles also would order her employees to buy dollars upon request of lawmakers for their trips abroad.
Based on the records provided by the whistle-blowers, dollars were remitted to Jo Christine Lim Napoles at Wells Fargo Bank, 3951 Portila, Parkman, Irvine, California, Check Account No. 9200265958; Reynald L. Lim, Bank of America, Ranchos Peñasquitos branch, 13205 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, California, Account No. 1216143383; Jose Emmanuel Lim, Wells Fargo-Pasadena Lake, 82S Lake Avenue, Pasadeña, California, Account No. 802-228-0062; Western Investment Corp. – DBA Days Inn. Wells Fargo Bank, North Tustin Avenue, Orange, California, Check Account No. 881-148-4107.
The whistle-blowers’ records showed that monies were also remitted to the bank accounts of Western Venture Management, Western Investment and Jeane Catherine L. Napoles’ account in Union Bank Manhattan Village.
Among the identified Napoles properties in the United States were the Anaheim Express Inn registered under the Western Investment, with address at 620 W Orangewood Avenue, Anaheim, California. Western Investment is purportedly owned by Napoles’ brother Reynald Lim and children James Christopher and Jo Christine.
Also in the list were a property at No. 32 Wedgewood, Canyon View, Irvine, California, 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. at 19545 E. Cienega Avenue.
Western Venture’s two other addresses are Covina CA 91724 and 620 W Orangewood Ave. Anaheim CA 92802.
Petitions to stop the sale or transfer of at least P5 billion worth of properties supposedly owned by Napoles have been filed in the Land Registration Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission by the whistle-blowers.
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