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Extradition of US Fund-Raiser Sought

May 24, 2001

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Philippine officials said Thursday they have asked a court to extradite a businessman to the United States, where he is accused of making illegal campaign contributions.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said government lawyers filed the extradition petition against Mark Jimenez, a close associate of ousted President Joseph Estrada, in a Manila court last week.

``We don’t really care how powerful a person may be,″ Hernandez said. ``If a person did anything wrong that would require my department to move, we’ll move.″

Jimenez has filed a petition to avoid immediate arrest, Perez said. A court can order the arrest without bail of people being sought for extradition.

Jimenez, who ran a Miami computer parts distribution business, was indicted in 1998 on 17 counts of illegally giving nearly $40,000 to Democratic Party candidates. Two months after he was indicted, Jimenez fled to the Philippines.

Jimenez won a seat in the House of Representatives in last week’s congressional election, running as an independent under his former name, Mario Crespo. He will represent one of Manila’s six districts starting June 30, election officials said Wednesday.

Perez said the immunity normally given to legislators only covers crimes punishable by a prison term of six years or less. The United States asked the Philippines in 1999 to extradite Jimenez on charges that carry a harsher punishment.

Jimenez’s case will test an extradition treaty signed by U.S. and Philippine officials in 1996 to help the two countries fight terrorism, drug trafficking and other cross-border crimes.

Estrada was toppled Jan. 20 over alleged corruption and has been incited on charges of economic plunder. He was replaced by his separately elected vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

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