Aman agent gives documents to NBI on pyramid operations, offers to become witness
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines — Maria Donna Coyme, an investment “agent’’ of the Aman Futures Group, has disclosed to the National Bureau of Investigation the bank accounts of the group where money collected by agents like her from investors were deposited.
She said the bank accounts were those of Manuel Amalilio and Fernando Luna, executives of Aman Futures that ran a Ponzi scheme that duped some 15,000 people of P12 billion.
Coyme, one of the 38 people on the Bureau of Immigration’s lookout bulletin, appeared before the NBI District Office here on Friday and said that she would provide investigators with a copy of Aman Futures’ daily transactions from Sept. 3 to Oct. 10.
She promised the NBI full cooperation in exchange for being accepted as a state witness.
Alex Cabornay, chief of the NBI-Iligan District Office, said Coyme had not surrendered as no warrant for her arrest had been issued by the courts.
In her statement, Coyme said she began as an investor in Aman last May, but later became one of the many “agents” of the firm tasked with managing and placing money into the group.
An agent was someone who managed funds from several people who pooled their money so they can comply with the minimum investment required by the group. The minimum investment, which was initially pegged at P1,000, later reached P200,000, according to reports.
Coyme, who initially thought Aman Futures was involved in foreign exchange trading, said she became convinced that the group was aboveboard after noticing that prominent people — lawyers, politicians and policemen — were putting money in Aman Futures.
Coyme also narrated the process by which money was “invested” in the accounts.
She said people wanting to place money in the group must first secure a note from Fernando or Nimfa Luna. The note served as a “gate pass” that allowed people to deposit the amounts in bank accounts identified by the Lunas.
The corresponding deposit slips were then brought to the Aman office which, in turn, would gave the investors corresponding receipts that indicated the amount of the capital, the total amount due, the interest rate and the due date or pay out of the “investment.”
Coyme said some “agents” charged anywhere from P500 to P2,000 for the gate pass. For her part, Coyme narrated that she charged 2 percent from the money being invested to cover expenses for the transactions.
Coyme said she had personally hired personnel to attend to those investing in her group.
The bulk of investments came in the middle of July after Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co issued a temporary permit for Aman Futures to be able to operate, she said.
In an earlier interview, Co said the city government had canceled Aman’s business permit because it had failed to present the required documents. He said a temporary permit was issued to Aman Futures to pay its investors and not to receive new investments.
Coyme said checks issued by Fernando and Nimfa Luna for pay-out or return on investments began bouncing last Sept. 3. To cover the initial bouncing checks, Coyme said the Lunas initially gave some investors partial cash payments with the promise of further payments in the future.
Beginning early September, Coyme said the amount of money coming in could no longer cover those it owed. It was then, Coyme said, that the Lunas began instructing their staff in the Aman office to tell investors that the group was having problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The SEC, according to the Lunas, had been delaying the issuance of a supposed “secondary license and a separate AMLA certification.”
AMLA refers to the Anti Money-Laundering Act of 2001, which penalizes money laundering and looks into suspicious transactions involving a total amount in excess of P500,000 in one banking day.
The Lunas and Dhurwin Wenceslao, a trusted associate of the Lunas whom Coyme described as the person who knew the transactions and secrets of Aman, continued to receive checks and pay outs even after the checks for other investors started bouncing for lack of sufficient funds.
Coyme said Aman finally stopped paying out investors at 3 p.m. on Sept. 26, the day before the temporary permit issued by the Mayor’s office expired.
Before their disappearance on the night of Sept. 26, the Luna couple instructed the Aman staff members to tell investors that payment would resume after the SEC issued the needed documents, to assure them that their money would be returned.