President Benigno S. Aquino III converses with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima during the 8th East Asia Conference (EAC) on Competition Law and Policy at the Mindanao Ballroom, Sofitel Philippine Plaza in CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City on Wednesday (August 28, 2013). EAC is an open event for key high-level officials of competition agencies in East Asia. EAC participants exchange ideas, views and experiences on emerging regional competition issues; and undertake to strengthen understanding and cooperation with regard to the implementation of competition policy and law across the region.  In photo is Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) chairman Kazuyuki Sugimoto. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III converses with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima during the 8th East Asia Conference (EAC) on Competition Law and Policy at the Mindanao Ballroom, Sofitel Philippine Plaza in CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City on Wednesday (August 28, 2013). EAC is an open event for key high-level officials of competition agencies in East Asia. EAC participants exchange ideas, views and experiences on emerging regional competition issues; and undertake to strengthen understanding and cooperation with regard to the implementation of competition policy and law across the region. In photo is Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) chairman Kazuyuki Sugimoto. (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has created a special fact-finding committee that will look into alleged extortion by supposed National Bureau of Investigation agents targeting Saudi nationals in the country.

Through Department Order 729, the committee was formed and would be composed of members of the Department of Justice, the NBI, and the National Prosecution Service.

De Lima said she was informed about the extortion incidents by the Royal Embassy of Saudi in Manila through a letter dated September 12. Both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Tourism also referred the Saudi Embassy’s concern to the DOJ.

According to the Saudi Embassy, a “team of NBI agents” and their cohorts including a woman named “Arlene” or “Darlene” have conducted “continuous extortion operations targeting Saudi nationals as one form of extracting money illegally.”

Among the victims were Majdi Abdulhamed Yaghmoor, Hassan Alharbi, Ahmad Al Ghaneem and Farhan Alsolobi, who were purportedly arrested “based on unsubstantiated claims,” and were later released only after the victims paid large sums of money.

Alhari said he paid P20,000, while Alsolobi paid P250,000. In Yaghmoor and Al Ghaneem’s case, they paid P300,000.

The victims were also allegedly harassed and intimidated by several NBI personnel while inside NBI premises “purposely to follow up the cases of the apprehended Saudi nationals.”

De Lima said she created the body “in light of such serious allegations, which not only cast the NBI in a bad light, but likewise compromise the integrity of legitimate operations against human traffickers, as well as our nation’s diplomatic relations with countries whose nationals may have been victimized by such alleged criminal syndicates.”

Comprising the fact-finding committee are DOJ Assistant Secretary Zabedin Azis as chairman; Deputy Director Jose Doloiras of the NBI as vice chair; and acting Regional Director Jose Justo Yap of the NBI Central Luzon Regional Office, Assistant State Prosecutor Bryan Jacinto Cacha and Assistant State Prosecutor Alejandro Daguiso of the NPS and State Counsel Adonis Sulit as members.

The team was also tasked to validate and probe other similar incidents involving personnel of the NBI, regardless of the nationality of the purported victims of extortion.

The team will have to determine whether or not any administrative or criminal liability has been incurred by the NBI personnel.

The body also has to identify who may be responsible for the alleged crime then recommend courses of actions to take, including appropriate administrative or criminal charges if any.

The committee is required to submit a report on its findings and recommendations on or before November 15. (MNS)