California Senator Arrested For Gun Conspiracy
( 4UMF NEWS ) California Senator Arrested For Gun Conspiracy:
California state senator Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday over charges of corruption and an alleged conspiracy to illegally trade in firearms, with his associates in the Philippines said to be "trying to overthrow the current government," according to an affidavit filed by the FBI.
Yee allegedly accepted campaign contributions from an undercover agent, in exchange for introductions to a Filipino separatist group that was purportedly offering to sell him high-powered firearms, including rocket launchers.
A report on GMA News' "News To Go" program on Friday said the state legislator was alleged to have a military contact in the Philippines – identified only as Wilson Lim – in the arms smuggling operation.
"Lim's associates in the Philippines were said to be trying to overthrow the current government and needed money," according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's affidavit against Yee.
Asked to comment on the matter, Armed Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the military has information that one of their personnel is involved, and the issue is "a matter of concern." Zagala said the AFP is willing to assist any investigation on the matter.
"Ang alam lang namin meron siyang [Yee] kausap sa Pilipinas... Kapitan man siya o hindi 'yan ay titingnan natin," Zagala added.
Asked by "News To Go" anchor Howie Severino to comment on the supposed plan of Yee's accomplices to topple the Aquino administration, Zagala said: "Sa ngayon, allegations pa lang ito... that is subject to investigation."
In a report on "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho" aired Friday evening, General Emmanuel Bautista, chief of staff of the Armed Forces, said he would withhold comment until he receives more information.
"Wala pang ganyang dumarating na ulat sa amin," he said.
Linked to organized crime
Yee was arrested early morning in San Francisco and left the federal courthouse shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, according to the UK Daily Mail, adding that the state senator declined to speak to the press. The article carried reports from the Associated Press.
The news report said FBI agents arrested Yee, 65, along with San Francisco Chinatown figure Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, 54, who had been linked to organized crime.
It cited a 137-page FBI criminal complaint that named more than 20 other defendants, including Yee's campaign aide Keith Jackson.
"The affidavit accuses Yee of conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms including rocket launchers worth as much as $2.5 million from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines," the report said.
The arrest occurred within hours of the signing of a peace pact between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government in Malacañang.
MILF denies involvement
In an interview with GMA News Online on Friday afternoon, the MILF denied any involvement in the alleged arm smuggling deals with Yee, who is temporarily out on bail.
"The news has been floated recently and we do not have any chance to validate that. Certainly, the MILF is not involved," Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, said.
"We are talking peace and we are abiding by that principle of peace," he added.
Asked if he received any information about the incident, Iqbal said, "what is certain is that MILF is not a party to that kind of situation."
A 2011 Xinhua.net story had quoted the MILF as saying previously that it had more than 60,000 weapons, factory, and technologies for making rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The Daily Mail report said Yee was also accused of "accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and cash payments to provide introductions, help a client get a contract and influence legislation."
Citing the court document by FBI agent Emmanuel V. Pascua, the report said Yee discussed helping the agent get weapons worth $500,000 to $2.5 million, including shoulder-fired missiles, and explaining the entire process of acquiring them from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines and bringing them to the US.
A lawyer for the Democrat state senator says they plan to plead not guilty to corruption and gun charges, the report said.
PHL government looking into reported gun running
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is looking into Yee's alleged gun running activities, the Palace said Friday.
"We have also been trying to get a name or at least more information about the alleged involvement of a supposed military officer. But so far, none have turned up in the past few hours and we trust that the AFP will get to the bottom of it because they are also concerned...should it be clarified that someone from the AFP is allegedly involved," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a briefing.
She added the Palace will ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to check on Yee's previous visits to the Philippines. The Bureau of Immigration is attached to the Department of Justice.
"I understand that there is a particular date, at least, that was mentioned-2012-but we’ll leave it to Secretary de Lima on how best to go about that," Valte said.
The Bureau of Customs is also looking into the allegations, reports said late Friday.
Planning to hide in PHL
The Daily Mail report said the affidavit showed Yee claiming he was unhappy with his life and telling the agent he wanted to hide in the Philippines.
"There's a part of me that wants to be like you ... You know how I'm going to be like you? Just be a free agent there," he was quoted as telling the undercover agent.
The documents indicated that the introduction with the trafficker, identified only as Lim, took place at a San Francisco restaurant last March 11.
Yee was quoted as saying he would not go to the Philippines until November.
"Once things start to move, it's going to attract attention. We just got to be extra, extra careful," he said, according to court documents.
According to the affidavit posted on the Daily Mail, the agent met again with Yee, Jackson and an associate at a restaurant March 14.
During that meeting, Yee and Jackson allegedly "discussed how they would break up the large sum of cash provided by the agent into legitimate campaign donations."
Jackson, 49, a former San Francisco school board president and well-known political consultant who raised money for Yee's losing campaign for mayor in 2011 and his current bid for secretary of state, was also in custody, the Daily Mail report said.
But Jackson, 49, did not enter a plea Wednesday. The FBI accused him of being involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and trafficking guns and drugs.
PHL a 'corrupt country'
The FBI complaint affidavit against Yee indicated that the California senator made comments about the Philippines being a "corrupt country" and Mindanao being "a war zone."
Excerpts from the affidavit from pages 80 to 101 give the following details:
- Keith Jackson, during a meeting Dec. 13, 2013 with an undercover agent, said Yee had an unidentified Filipino associate supplying "heavy" weapons to rebel groups in the Philippines
- On March 5, the undercover agent met with Keith Jackson and Yee at a hotel restaurant in San Francisco. Before Yee arrived, Jackson told the agent a person identified as Dr. Wilson Lim would be the contact point in the US for the weapons deal in the Philippines, and one of Lim's relatives would be the contact in the Philippines
- Lim's associates in the Philippines were said to be trying to overthrow the current government and needed money
- Yee claimed Lim's source for the weapons was a Philippine citizen who previously sold guns to individuals, and had delivered a shipment of weapons to the Cagayan de Oro port
- Yee said the Philippines "was a very corrupt country" and the undercover agent needed to be "prepared to pay people at every level during the lifecycle of the deal."
- When the undercover agent asked Yee about dealing in large-scale weapons systems like artillery, Yee said Mindanao is a "war zone."
- Yee said the "Muslims in Mindanao had access to a lot of money and were being financed by (Libyan leader) Muammar Gaddafi before his death"
- When the undercover agent asked about major Muslim organizations in Mindanao, Yee said "MILF" but said there are several factions in the MILF. Lim then told the undercover agent the MILF are his friends but he does not personally associate with them
- When the agent asked Lim about the weapons he had access to, Lim mentioned the Israeli-made Tavor assault rifle, which he described as being the equivalent of the M-16. When the agent asked Lim if he had access to anything bigger, Lim said "All kinds of things, we just have to look for it."
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