Former CNMI AG Edward Buckingham arrested in Colorado
Authorities in the Northern Marianas are planning to extradite the former Attorney General after he was arrested in Colorado.
The net seems to be closing in the long-running hunt for the former governor and attorney general of the Northern Marianas.
Edward Buckingham, who has been on the run since he fled the territory to avoid being served a penal summons last year, was arrested in the US state of Colorado.
His boss, the former governor Benigno Fitial, who left Saipan the day after resigning in the face of an impeachment trial, has also been tracked down, recovering from surgery in the Philippines.
Jamie Tahana has more:
The former attorney general Edward Buckingham was arrested by police acting on an arrest warrant by the Superior Court in Saipan on Wednesday night. Mr Buckingham is wanted after he fled the territory to avoid being served a penal summons last year. He is facing several criminal charges related to deals he made on behalf of a former governor, Benigno Fitial. A spokesperson for the Jefferson County District Attorney's office in Colorado, Pam Russell, says Mr Buckingham has made a brief appearance in court and has been granted bail.
RUSSELL: During the course of his appearance this morning, he was given a bond amount of $25,000 cash and he has posted the $25,000 cash bond this afternoon and is being released. But at the end of the hearing the judge did order his next appearance date would be 10 June at 8 o'clock in the morning.
Glen Hunter is an anti-corruption campaigner in the CNMI. He says the arrest is welcome news for the territory and shows that nobody, no matter how powerful, is above the law.
HUNTER: This is just another step in that long process towards creating a better CNMI. The former AG was just one part of the many facets of change that needed to occur in the CNMI and one of them was getting him removed from power and held accountable for the actions that he did.
The next step for the Office of the Public Auditor, which is leading the investigation, and the CNMI government is to have Mr Buckingham extradited back to the CNMI. Pam Russell says the Northern Marianas has 90 days to prepare a warrant and send it to the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper.
RUSSELL: They would request this application from the governor in Saipan. If this is approved and they have everything together they would then submit that to the governor's office here in Colorado. The governor's office in Colorado would then review this and if they find it all in order then our governor's office would issue a governor's warrant. The governor's warrant would then be sent to the sheriff's department in Jefferson County where Mr Buckingham has court appearances pending.
However, Glen Hunter says the former attorney general is only one part of the rot in the former administration.
HUNTER: I think for a lot of people in the community that's a big focus. Buckingham was one of the minions, or one of the pawns that Governor Fitial had working for him, and so everybody has wanted to see justice be served at the highest of levels.
This highest level is Benigno Fitial, who stood down just days before he was due to face an impeachment trial in the Senate on charges of corruption, felony and neglect of duty. He left the territory the day after and hasn't been heard from since. But our CNMI correspondent, Mark Rabago, says that in the past couple of days Mr Fitial has been found recuperating from gall bladder surgery in a Philippines hospital. Fitial is facing seven charges for his role in the alleged conspiracy to help Mr Buckingham flee, and the OPA has filed for an arrest warrant for him.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: