A former Philippine diplomat, fighting extradition from the United States to Australia on an embezzlement charge, testified yesterday he gave nearly $87,000 in U.S. currency to Philipine officials as part of a kick-back scheme.
Joselito Casilana Azurin, who was once the Philippines' highest ranking diplomat in Australia, testified he participated in the alleged scheme on the orders of his immediate superior, Vicente Reyes, the Philippine assistant secretary for foreign affairs.
Azurin, appearing at an extradition hearing in Alexandria, said he sent some of the money from Australia to Reyes in Manila via diplomatic pouch. He said he gave the rest to an aide to Reyes in a Los Angeles hotel room on May 30, 1978.
In a statement released in connection with Azurin's extraditon propceedings, the Philippine Ministry of Foreign Affairs called his allegations "preposterous absurd."
Azurin testified yesterday in an effort to show that the Australian government's attempt to extradite him on a charge of embezzling more than $81,000 in Australian funds ($91,000 U.S.) was actually engineered by the Philippine government to "punish" him for defecting. He said he sent most of the money in question to Philippine officials under orders as part of the alleged kickback scheme.
Azurin is seeking asylum in this country, having declared the government of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos a "dictatorship."
Philip L. Kellog, Azurin's attorney, told U.S. District Judge Oren R. Lewis yesterday that a section of the extradition treaty between the United States and Australia prohibits extradition for political reasons.
Lewis said he will rule today whether Azurin can be extradited. "But I don't want you to get too optimistic," the judge told Kellogg.
"I shan't, your honor," Kellogg replied.
If Lewis decides there is sufficient reason to extradite Azurin, who has worked as a household domestic since arringing in the Washington area in August 1978, the matter would be referred to the State Department for a final decision, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leonie M. Brinkema told Lewis.
Azurin's testimony that he had cashed a check made out to the Philippine government as a refund on a shipping contract was not an admission of embezzlement, Kellog argued. He said Azurin simply passed the money on to others.
Azurin's testimony that he gave part of the money to Armando Fernandez, a consular aide in Los Angeles, was denied in an affidavit from Fernandez, Lewis said.