US will not Rush Philippines in Extraditing Fugitive Estrada Friend

Published January 30th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The American government will not rush the Philippines into extraditing a fugitive friend of Joseph Estrada who has agreed to help state prosecutors nail the ex-president on graft charges, officials said Tuesday. 

US embassy spokesman Thomas Skipper said his government wanted Mark Jimenez back on US soil "as quickly as possible" but conceded that "we can't control domestic, legal processes." 

"His involvement in any domestic, legal proceedings is a matter entirely for the government of the Philippines," Skipper stressed, adding that Washington was "prepared to wait however long it takes." 

Acting foreign affairs secretary Lauro Baja said the US embassy had requested that Jimenez be placed on an immigration watchlist as early as October, when allegations of massive corruption first emerged against Estrada. 

"The US fears that he can just leave the Phiippines and go to other countries where the US has no extradition treaty," Baja told reporters. 

Jimenez's inclusion on the watchlist expired on Monday, but Baja said he had already asked the justice department to issue a hold departure order. 

Earlier Tuesday, Justice Secretary Hernando Perez confirmed that Jimenez, a member of the ex-president's inner circle, had agreed to testify against Estrada. 

Jimenez had been giving depositions to government lawyers since Friday that revealed the extent of the former leader's alleged illegal involvement in several business deals, Perez said. 

Estrada, impeached by Congress in November, was ousted last week by a military-backed popular revolt after senators sitting as judges in his corruption trial voted to suppress evidence linking him to secret bank accounts allegedly built up from illegal activities. 

Jimenez fled the US after he was indicted in Florida in 1999 for alleged tax evasion, mail fraud and illegal campaign contributions to the US Democratic Party. 

The fugitive successfully used Philippine courts to fight off both governments and delay his extradition while Estrada was in power, even though the former leader often said he would not use his position to help his friend. 

Perez said he would ask Washington to hold off the extradition until the case against Estrada was completed.  

"I'm hoping the US will understand the circumstances if it indeed may delay the extradition process," Baja said -- MANILA (AFP) 

 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

You may also like