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Monday, April 21, 2014

‘Feds willing to pursue Buckingham’
CNMI yet to initiate process

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) said the U.S. Department of Justice would be willing to pursue former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham, who has been declared a fugitive from justice, but the CNMI has yet to initiate the process to extradite him. The CNMI Office of the Attorney General, meanwhile, said yesterday it looks forward to any federal assistance in this or any criminal case.

The delegate wrote a letter to Attorney General Joey Patrick San Nicolas last week, immediately after the CNMI Supreme Court denied Buckingham’s petition to overturn the trial court’s order declaring him a fugitive from justice.

Sablan said he has been in communication with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco concerning the Buckingham case.

have been informed that the Department of Justice would be willing to pursue Mr. Buckingham. A request from you, as the head prosecution authority of the Commonwealth, to U.S. Attorney Limtiaco would be necessary, however, to initiate Mr. Buckingham’s capture. Your request would also have to state that the Northern Marianas is willing to expend the resources necessary to extradite the fugitive Buckingham, once he is apprehended,” Sablan told San Nicolas in a Dec. 5 letter, a copy of which was obtained yesterday.

San Nicolas, when asked for comment yesterday, said he appreciates Sablan’s support and “look[s] forward to any federal assistance that can be provided to the Office of the Attorney General in this or any criminal case.”

Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan), at the same time, said a resolution he pre-filed in September asking Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and then acting AG Viola Alepuyo to initiate proceedings for Buckingham’s extradition “has been languishing” in the House.

Dela Cruz said he still looks forward to the former AG’s extradition.

“My resolution has been languishing in the clerk’s office because the speaker is reluctant to call a session. If he does call one in this lame duck Legislature, then I’m ready to make necessary changes to the resolution. I just hope that AG San Nicolas will do the right thing and send the letter to Mr. Holder. The people of the NMI are all counting on Mr. San Nicolas,” Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

Sablan also has a similar message to San Nicolas.

“I know that you are well aware of the significance the public places on the Buckingham case and that you committed during your confirmation hearing to take appropriate action. I encourage you to follow through on that commitment and wanted you to know that federal authorities have expressed a willingness to assist you in bringing Mr. Buckingham to justice,” he told the AG.

On Dec. 5, the Supreme Court denied Buckingham’s petition to overturn the trial court’s order declaring him a fugitive from justice.

The underlying criminal case against Buckingham arose from criminal information obtained by the Office of the Public Auditor.

Though initial attempts at service of the penal summons were unsuccessful, Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Hae Jun Park ultimately served Buckingham just before Buckingham boarded a plane and left the CNMI on Aug. 4.

That was also a day after he and the governor signed a no-bid $190.8-million diesel power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC. That PPA is under a temporary injunction.

Fitial’s failure to remove Buckingham and the $190.8-million power deal were among the issues cited in a defeated resolution impeaching the governor for 16 allegations of corruption, neglect of duty, and felony.

The incoming House supermajority is poised to re-introduce an impeachment resolution as early as January.

Lawmakers, other government officials and community members want Buckingham to be brought back to the CNMI to face the criminal charges filed against him by OPA, including those in connection with his hosting of a political campaign in 2010, and obstruction of justice in August 2012 when he allegedly asked the use of police and ports police officers to shield him from being served a penal summons.

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