Manhunt on for Aman execs DOJ panel to ready charges

Posted on November 15, 2012

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Manila— Justice Secretary Leila de Lima created yesterday a panel of prosecutors to help 15,000 victims duped in a multi-billion peso pyramid scam in the Visayas and Mindanao file cases of syndicated estafa against the operators of Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc., before the end of 2012.

De Lima also said she has ordered a manhunt for the officials of the investment firm run by a former janitor and driver but who have managed to dupe people of their hard-earned money amounting to P12 billion.

Among Aman Futures’ victims were local politicians, police and military personnel, government workers, market vendors, farmers, drivers, retired employees and overseas Filipino workers.

De Lima and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas were supposed to hold a press conference at the Department of Justice on Wednesday, on the massive pyramid scam.

But the event was cancelled because they were called in Malacañang for a meeting with President Aquino on the same issue, among others.

Speaking to reporters before she left for the Palace, De Lima said that she would issue a department order creating a panel of prosecutors that would help investigate the pyramid scam.

“My directive to the Prosecuting-General is to form a good panel of prosecutors, those who are very reliable and hardworking so that (the filing of cases) will be completed immediately. As much as possible we want the cases filed before the end of the year,” the justice secretary said.

Prosecuting General Claro Arellano said that around 10-12 prosecutors would help the victims file syndicated estafa against Aman Futures officials.

Among the Aman Futures executives and directors whom De Lima wanted charged were Manuel K. Amalilio, Fernando “Nonoy” R. Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Edward L. Lim, William L. Fuentes, Naezelle M. Rodriguez and Lurix Lopez.

Luna managed the multi-billion-peso scam and is a former driver and utility person for a company located near the Pagadian City public market.

Amalilio, the investment firm’s top man, is a 32-year-old Malaysian, whose Malaysian name is Mohammad Suffian Saaid.

Amalilio reportedly owns three private planes and two units at Upper McKinley Hills Garden Villas in Taguig City. He also owns a house in Cebu City and Dapitan City.

Luna and Amalilio and their families are now in hiding.

De Lima has ordered authorities to check who among these officials are still in the country, who are hiding and who have gone abroad.

Even if these officials have fled out of the country, the government could still get them by invoking bilateral agreements like the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with countries where they have sought refuge, according to De Lima.

These treaties will help bring these officials back to the country, she said.

“Remember if they’re just within (the countries of) Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), we have an Asean MLAT, we will ask their help,” she said.

Asean is a group of 10 Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines that have economic, political and social ties.

De Lima also said they have started investigating reports that some local officials have invested in Aman Futures and probably used public funds.

She said that initially, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had a hard time filing cases against Aman Futures because complainants hesitated in doing so in fear they would be unable to recoup their investments.

“Their target was to recover, to recoup their investments so they feared they would not get their investments back if they had filed a case against them,” De Lima said.

But she said she did not think the victims would be able to recoup their investments anyway, because the officials of the investment firm have gone in hiding and have closed down accounts. “We are definitely focused on this so that cases can be immediately filed,” De Lima added.

Aman Futures was able to lure investors by offering a 30-percent to 40-percent return on investment within eight days, and a 50-percent to 80-percent profit for 18 to 20 days.

The investment firm would give their investors a postdated check of the entire sum of the investment plus a profit up to 80 percent.

And from its initial home base in Pagadian City, Aman Futures expanded its business to other cities and provinces like Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga in Mindanao and to Cebu City.

But the postdated checks they issued to their investors started to bounce in October, causing investors to panic and seek out the officials of the investment firm. /Inquirer

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