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Daily Archives: August 12, 2008

Top Mariana Islands official charged with theft, fraud

A US federal grand jury yesterday indicted Northern Mariana Lieutenant Governor Timothy Villagomez and two other government officials for theft and fraud involving over 500,000 US dollars.
The US-administered Pacific island territory's second top official faces charges involving conspiracy to defraud the United States government, wire fraud and theft of federal funds.
He faces a maximum five-year jail sentence if convicted.
Villagomez was released on 50,000 dollars unsecured bail and refused to comment to reporters on offences alleged to have occured between 2000 and 2007.
According to court papers, Villagomez and his brother-in-law, Commerce Secretary James Santos, allegedly engaged in a fraudulent scheme, initially when the former was still the executive director of government-owned energy company the Commonwealth Utilities Corp (CUC).
First assistant US attorney David Strand said Villagomez approved purchases of a chemical from Santos's distribution company, although the chemical was not used by CUC.
The transaction provided a grossly inflated profit to Santos's company but had little if any benefit to CUC, Strand said.
"Although I am deeply troubled by this development, I respect the US criminal justice system," Northern Mariana Islands Governor Benigno R. Fitial said.

Pipeline fire in eastern Turkey extinguished

A fire at a major oil pipeline in eastern Turkey, sparked by a blast last week, was extinguished yesterday, officials told Anatolia news agency.
Separatist Kurdish rebels claimed responsibility for the blast, which ripped through a section of the pipeline in Erzincan province late on August 5, causing fresh jitters at the world oil markets.
Turkish officials have played down the possibility of a sabotage, adding that the definite cause of the blast could be determined after the fire was extinguished.
An official from Turkey's state-run gas and oil company BOTAS said last week that repair work at the pipeline was expected to take about 15 days.
Inaugurated in 2006, the 1,774-kilometre pipeline carries Azeri oil from the Caspian Sea fields to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, from where tankers transport the crude to Western markets.
The conduit has faced further risks since last Friday as tensions in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia escalated into a full-blown military conflict that saw Russian warplanes bomb Georgian targets.