U.S. Seeks to Recover $12.5 Million Obtained from High-Level Corruption in the Philippines
The Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint today seeking to recover approximately $12.5 million in assets found in the United States that derive from bribery and kickback schemes in the Philippines spanning nearly a decade.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
“Over nearly a decade, Janet Napoles allegedly stole millions of dollars in funds entrusted to her for development assistance and disaster relief for the people of the Philippines,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “In an effort to disguise and enjoy her ill-gotten gains, Napoles purchased properties and other assets in the United States for herself and her family members, including a condominium at the Ritz and a Porsche. The Justice Department will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt or a place to hide and invest stolen riches.”
“The FBI is committed to ensuring that the U.S. financial system is not used to launder the proceeds of foreign bribery schemes,” said Assistant Director in Charge Bowdich. “Nor is the United States a safe haven for the fruits of corruption.”
As alleged in the complaint, from approximately 2004 to 2012, Philippine businesswoman Janet Napoles, 51, paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to Philippine politicians and other government officials in exchange for over $200 million in funding for purported development assistance and disaster relief. Napoles’ non-governmental organizations (NGOs), however, then either failed to provide, or under-delivered on, the promised support. The complaint further alleges that Napoles also diverted NGO funds for her own personal use and benefit, often draining accounts within days of government disbursements. For this conduct, the Philippines’ Office of the Ombudsman has charged Napoles, two of her children and numerous current and former Philippine politicians and other government officials in connection with what has been nicknamed the “pork barrel scam.”
The complaint alleges that Napoles transferred over $12 million in Philippine government-awarded funds to bank accounts in the United States in the names of, or controlled by, her family members. According the complaint, Napoles used the money to purchase numerous assets, including a condominium at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles for her 21-year-old daughter. The complaint seeks to forfeit the proceeds from the sale of the Los Angeles condominium, along with several other assets, including a motel near Disneyland in Anaheim, California; properties in Covina and Irvine, California; a 19 percent stake in a California-based consulting company; and a Porsche Boxster that was purchased for another daughter.
Napoles is currently serving a sentence of life in prison in the Philippines for her role in the kidnapping and detention of her cousin, Benhur Luy, who served as Napoles’s finance officer and tracked her schemes.
The complaint was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, in which a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section work in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, return those proceeds to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office. Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. The case is being handled by Trial Attorney Alexis J. Loeb of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, with substantial support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. The Justice Department also thanks the Philippines’ Office of the Ombudsman, Anti-Money Laundering Council, National Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice for their cooperation in this matter.