AN ANTI-MONEY laundering case was filed Tuesday against Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and his son Haider for allegedly pocketing a portion of the P20-million ransom paid for the release of a kidnapped news crew of ABS-CBN in June 2008.

The complaint was filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) through Richard David Funk II and Monico Villar Jr., deputy director and bank officer V, respectively, at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

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The duo allegedly received P3-million on the ransom paid for broadcaster Cecilia “Ces” Drilon and her cameramen Angelo Valderrama and Jimmyfred Encarnacion when they were abducted by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu.

According to the AMLC, the Isnajis made a series of significant bank transactions, deposits, and withdrawals, after acting as negotiators for Drilon’s camp and that of Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo.

“There is reasonable ground to believe that respondent Mayor Alvarez and Haider Isnaji, knowing fully well that they were dealing with proceeds of the unlawful activity of kidnapping for ransom,” the complaint stated.

Isnaji and Haider were earlier charged with kidnap-for-ransom before the Pasig Regional Trial Court after the DOJ held that there were strong indications that they were in cahoots with the suspects.

The trial court, however, acquitted the Isnajis after the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

But the AMLC insisted that despite their acquittal in the kidnap-for-ransom case, the Isnajis can still be held accountable for money laundering based on the testimony of Police Officer Winnie Quidato executed on February 20, 2009.

In his affidavit, Quidato revealed that he was present when Drilon’s brother delivered the initial ransom payment of P5 million to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidula, who gave the money to Isnaji.

Quidato also said that Isnaji admitted to him that he delivered only P2 million of the initial ransom payment of P5 million to the Abu Sayyaf.

“Clearly, Mayor Isnaji pocketed part of the ransom money that was paid by the family of the victim,” the AMLC said.

The transactions made by the Isnajis, according to the AMLC, were not commensurate to the financial capacity of the respondents.

Drilon and her team went to Jolo, Sulu to interview Radulan Sahiron, who was then largely believed to be the new leader of the Abu Sayyaf. The supposed interview was arranged by Dinampo, who claimed to have seen and talked to Sahiron in February 2008.

The group, however, failed to conduct the interview as they were abducted by another group of Abu Sayyaf who held them captives for 10 days. (JCV/Sunnex)