DOJ summons Batangas vice guv to drug cartel probe

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Monday, January 6, 2014

MANILA -- Some members of the Leviste political clan were ordered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to appear on Thursday to shed light on the seizure of P420-million worth of illegal drugs at the family-owned ranch in Batangas on Christmas Day.

Aside from paroled homicide convict Antonio Leviste, the DOJ special panel also required his brother Conrad, nephew Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste, LPL Ranch Estate administrator Benedicto Orense and the corporate secretary of the Leviste family-run LBJ Development Corp. to attend the preliminary investigation hearing.

It was Orense who signed the lease agreement for LBJ, which allowed suspected shabu operator Jorge Torres to use the 10,000-square-meter property in Lipa City for game fowl breeding starting June 28, 2013.

Torres, who remains at large, allegedly has links to the Sinaloa drug cartel from Mexico, where more than 70,000 have been killed since the North American country started the crackdown on the organized crime in 2006.

The raid yielded three suspects and 84 kilos of shabu.

The DOJ also asked the Levistes to submit copies of the lease agreement between LBJ and Torres. Last week, Leviste's lawyer Cristina Buendia forwarded documents showing Torres rented the ranch for P18,150 per month.

Buendia said the former Batangas governor is not one of the owners of the property based on the list of incorporators taken from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Conrad was named treasurer.

"We hope that the foregoing clarifies and puts in order all misinformation about Antonio Leviste's alleged ownership of the LPL Ranch Estate that has reached the Honorable Justice department," she said.

Leviste was released from jail last December 6 after he was pardoned for showing good behavior and winning the case in relation to his unauthorized exit from the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City in May 2011.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had said Leviste may be brought back to his cell to serve the remainder of his 12-year sentence if proven that he owns the ranch and he had knowledge of the illegal drug operation.

Leviste was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court of homicide in January 2009 for killing his friend and aide, Rafael delas Alas, in 2007. (Sunnex)

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