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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Governor Asked To Extradite Former CNMI Attorney General
Special prosecutor says justice requires Buckingham face trial

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 9, 2013) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Office of Public Auditor legal counsel George Hasselback on Monday asked Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to extradite former Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham.

In his Jan. 7 letter, Hasselback said he has accepted Attorney General Joey Patrick San Nicolas’ designation of him as special prosecutor in the matter of the criminal charges against Buckingham.

Facing two counts of misconduct in public office and two counts of NMI ethics and election law violations, Buckingham was declared a fugitive from justice by the Superior Court.

In an interview yesterday, San Nicolas told reporters that the matter is now with the governor.

"He is going to make a determination," the AG said.

Asked what will happen next, San Nicolas said: "At this point I have no comment to make. I assigned the matter to Mr. George Hasselback because of the conflict in my office and the conflict that I have so he has already written a letter to the governor and the governor has received it."

"In my opinion," Hasselback told Fitial, "the ends of justice require the arrest and return of Buckingham to the commonwealth for trial. Buckingham has been charged with multiple violations of CNMI law, including two felonies."

He added, "As the CNMI Superior Court and the CNMI Supreme Court have both recognized, Buckingham left the CNMI with fill knowledge that criminal charges had been filed against him. Currently the case cannot proceed without the presence of Buckingham before the Superior Court and without a warrant signed by you, there is no real incentive for him to return to the commonwealth willingly."

Hasselback said considering the seriousness of the charges, coupled with the fact that Buckingham occupied a significant position of public trust, "the successful prosecution of this case should be a priority."

But without a warrant from the governor for Buckingham’s extradition, "the case against [the former AG] cannot proceed and the ends of justice would be frustrated as the commonwealth’s interest in seeing its laws upheld would be thwarted."

Hasselback said his request was not to vindicate any personal claims but pursuant to the prosecution of the criminal case against the former AG.

Escorted by the governor’s bodyguard and other police officials, Buckingham left the island in haste a day after signing the no-bid $190 million power plant deal of the governor with the shadowy firm, Saipan Development LLC.

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