Fearing retribution from investors they duped of their hard-earned money, five of the six directors of the board of Aman Futures Group have surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday identified the five Aman Futures directors as Leilan Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, Wilaie Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez and Lurix Lopez, who all turned themselves in on Sunday.
They are now in the protective custody of the NBI.
Still at large is Fernando “Nonoy” Luna, a former janitor and driver who served as manager of Aman Futures, which duped at least 15,000 people, mostly in Mindanao and the Visayas, of P12 billion in just several months this year.
Aman Futures’ victims included market vendors, fishermen, civil servants, policemen, soldiers and local government officials. The firm lured investors by offering them a return of 30-40 percent in eight days and a return of 50-80 percent in 18-20 days.
Manuel Amalilio, the Malaysian founder of Aman Futures, has fled to Kota Kinabalu. Manila has asked Kuala Lumpur’s help in arresting Amalilio so he can face charges in the Philippines.
Mayor Co faces charges
In a news conference, De Lima said the NBI was also expected to file a case against Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co for his involvement in the investment scam.
Co earlier filed a complaint against Aman Futures, saying he also lost heavily in the firm.
“He may be a complainant or he may be a victim as he claims but we can’t close our eyes to available evidence, both documentary and testimonial, pointing to his participation (in the scam),” De Lima said.
Co is expected Tuesday to be charged with syndicated estafa, a nonbailable offense, and with violating the antigraft law, according to NBI Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez.
The five directors of the investment firm are expected to appear in Monday’s preliminary investigation hearing of the syndicated estafa charges filed with a special panel of prosecutors that the Department of Justice has created.
De Lima said the five were “willing to cooperate and have submitted themselves to NBI jurisdiction for investigation.”
The five directors have executed sworn statements with the help of their lawyers and will file their respective counteraffidavits in today’s preliminary investigation hearing, the justice secretary said.
NBI Director Nonatus Rojas said the five Aman Futures directors surrendered so they could give their side after learning that they had been charged.
The five also wanted to seek protection from irate investors, Rojas added.
Some victims have taken the law into their own hands, burning the homes of relatives of certain Aman Futures executives. An agent of the firm was recently kidnapped and shot dead.
“Their surrender will be a big help in our investigation and will help us know and understand what really happened and who should really be held accountable for this scam,” Rojas said of the five Aman directors.
De Lima said the five would share their knowledge of the “flow of the investments and the … existing assets of the entity.”
Their surrender, however, does not mean that their liability will be mitigated, she said.
The Ponzi scheme allowed Aman Futures to amass funds that it used to acquire eight planes and two helicopters. Amalilio was also reported to have acquired two units at Upper McKinley Hills Garden Villas in Taguig City, a house in Cebu City and another one in Dapitan City.
In a Ponzi scheme, part of the deposits of new investors are paid to early investors. Thus, early investors in Pagadian City were able to build homes or buy sports utility vehicles, encouraging others to put money in Aman Futures. The scheme collapsed when the firm was unable to pay the growing number of investors.
De Lima said the five Aman Futures directors had not asked to be considered state witnesses but were just willing to cooperate with investigators.
“We will leave it up to the special panel of prosecutors who among them, if any, can be utilized as a state witness against the principal perpetrators,” she said.
Mendez said that the five directors had told the NBI that Amalilio was still in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia because one of them had just recently spoken to him.
On Co’s case, De Lima said a complaint would be filed against him today because there was “evidence showing or establishing (his) possible involvement” in the scam.
She said the NBI had “no choice” but to file the case because of the big number of private complainants. As of Nov. 23, there were 9,644 complaints filed and being investigated against Aman Futures. With Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted: 5:30 pm | Monday, November 26th, 2012