MANILA - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has released from its custody one of New Jersey's 12 Most Wanted Fugitives, who is also the subject of an Interpol Red Notice.
Peter Joseph Leus, 45, has outstanding warrants of arrest for money laundering and theft, for allegedly pocketing over $1.7 million from the Essex County nursing and rehabilitation home's patient needs and payroll accounts.
Leus was the financial controller of the nursing home at the time of the commission of the alleged offense.
Leus, who has been a fugitive of justice since 2005, faces up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $650,000, and restitution to the nursing home, if convicted.
In a statement, Trenton, New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey said that it was "unfortunate" for Leus to have abused such an important position of trust.
"It is unfortunate when a professional in a position of trust and holding the responsibility of protecting those unable to care or protect themselves is compelled to steal from those very persons they are signed to protect," Harvey said, in a statement issued on Sept. 9, 2005.
"NO BASIS TO HOLD LEUS"
The Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI), which had detained Leus from January 13 up to January 15, insisted that it had no basis to further detain Leus.
Leus was arrested by the Cavite Philippine National Police (PNP) in Paco, Manila last January 11, and subsequently turned over to the BI.
BI spokesperson Maria Angelica Pedro told ABS-CBN News that Leus was able to present documents to prove his Filipino citizenship. She added the BI only has jurisdiction over foreign nationals.
"The Bureau of Immigration holds no jurisdiction over Mr. Leus because he is Filipino. After investigation and presentation of documents proving his citizenship, he was able to substantiate his claim that he is Filipino.
"And even in the Interpol Red Notice, the nationality indicated for him is Filipino," San Pedro said.
Leus presented original copies of his Philippine passport, Comelec voter's ID, postal ID, driver's licence, Tax Identification Number (TIN) ID, and barangay certification card, she added.
Leus also insisted that the policemen who arrested him were unable to present any arrest warrant for his arrest.
NO PHILIPPINE LAWS VIOLATED
The BI did not turn Leus over to local law enforcement agencies because he committed no violations of Philippine laws, San Pedro stressed.
US authorities may request Leus' extradition with the Department of Justice (DOJ), she added.
To date, the BI is not aware of any such request.
"If the US government would want to process his extradition or seek assistance as regards his transfer to the United States, they can coordinate with the Department of Justice under the [PH-US] Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT)," San Pedro said.
The US government may also invoke its extradition treaty with the Philippines, except that the treaty is limited to certain offenses, San Pedro added.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima told ABS-CBN News that she will look into Leus' case.