Pyramiding boss in Malaysia – NBI
Edu Punay, Sandy Araneta, Sandy Araneta a (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Malaysian head of a trading firm that allegedly duped thousands of middle class investors in Mindanao has fled to his home country, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said yesterday.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, meanwhile, ordered a formal investigation into the get-rich-quick scam of the Aman Futures Group, and sought the filing of a case in court by yearend.

NBI deputy director for regional operations services Virgilio Mendez said Aman president Manuel Amalilio is already in Kota Kinabalu.

“It is confirmed. He’s in Kota Kinabalu,” Mendez told the media last night during a press briefing at the NBI headquarters.

“We are now focused in gathering the documentary evidence and entertain all the complaints. We are just waiting for the issuance of the warrants because the complaint has already been filed before the Prosecutor’s Office in Pagadian several weeks ago, but the process is quite long,” Mendez added.

The prosecutor’s office had to send subpoenas’ to the subjects. He said it would take time, as these were sent in different areas like Manila, Cebu, and Pagadian.

Earlier Mendez met with President Aquino, De Lima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in Malacañang. He said the President’s specific instruction to him was to fast-track the investigation.

“Amalilio is the only one out of the country. The others, the Filipinos, are still in the country,” he said.

Mendez said De Lima had ordered the NBI to file syndicated estafa cases against Aman Futures officers namely its president Manuel K. Amalilio, and board members Fernando “Nonoy” R. Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Edward L. Lim, William L. Fuentes, Naezelle M. Rodriguez and Lurix Lopez.

He said the one of the plans of Aman Futures was to put up the so-called Aman Air, an airline company. “We received information that they have eight small airplanes,” he said.

De Lima said the firm duped local politicians, police and military personnel, government workers, market vendors, farmers, drivers, retired employees and overseas Filipino workers into investing their hard-earned money in the company, promising them a windfall shortly.

She ordered the creation of a high-level panel of prosecutors from the justice department’s task force on securities and business scams to determine the probable cause that would warrant the filing of criminal cases against Amalilio and others involved in the scam.

“We want to file the case in court before the year ends. We are checking those who are hiding. If they have left, we will check the countries of destination so we can immediately invoke existing bilateral agreements like MLAT (mutual legal assistance treaty),” she told reporters in an interview.

De Lima said the country might use its MLAT with neighboring Southeast Asian nations including Malaysia.

De Lima said there is an urgent need to run after the Aman executives and to fast-track the investigation following reports that public funds could be involved in the scam.

“We are double checking a report that there were certain local officials involved in the pyramiding scam by probably by using public funds,” she said.

De Lima said while the NBI is pursuing its own probe, the justice department has already asked the Commission on Audit to look into the possibility that public funds were lost in the scam.

She said investigators initially had a hard time gathering information because the victims were merely interested in getting back their money and had no intention to file complaints.

 “We only convinced them to cooperate when we told them the suspects have already gone into hiding and it was impossible for them to recover their investment,” she said.

Amalilio, 32, 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.

The STAR was the first to break the story about this “double-your-money” scam in its Nov. 11 issue. The report titled “Roxas orders probe on scam victimizing Mindanao folk” and written by reporter Cecille Suerte Felipe, had quoted Interior Secretary Mar Roxas as saying he had ordered an investigation into the operation of the Aman Futures Group that has reportedly victimized ordinary folk in Pagadian City and other parts of Mindanao.

The DILG chief personally flew to Pagadian City last Nov. 9 to check on the victims - mostly low-income earners from Marawi, Iligan, Ozamiz and Cebu - who were promised a return of the entire amount of their investment in the form of postdated checks, plus investment profit ranging from 30 to 40 percent in less than a month.

Considering the volume and amount of transactions handled by Aman, Roxas had said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) can probe the company’s flow of money, including its board members and executives.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has confirmed that Aman registered only on July 22 this year with Manuel Amalilio, Fernando Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, William Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez, and Lurix Lopez as incorporators and board of directors.

However, last Oct. 8, the SEC issued a cease and desist order against the firm’s operations. - With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Zinnia dela Peña, Roel Pareño

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