The Court of Appeals has frozen the bank accounts of 23 Aman Futures executives and their companies in connection with an alleged P12-billion investment scam that investigators suspect is also being used to fund terrorist activities, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, the National Bureau of Investigation filed in the DOJ charges of syndicated estafa against Mayor Samuel Co of Pagadian City, his wife and 10 others in the scheme that allegedly defrauded 15,000 people in Mindanao.
Co and his wife, Priscilla Ann, were implicated by two investors, Samsodin B. Ala and Fabian Tapyan, who claimed they both directly dealt with the couple in investing a total of P11.014 million in Aman Futures, according to the NBI complaint.
The appellate court issued on Nov. 20 the freeze order covering accounts in 25 banks and financial institutions upon the urgent ex-parte petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) a week earlier.
“In order to avoid the possibility that the funds in the subject bank accounts will be withdrawn and placed beyond the reach of law enforcers, a freeze order, effective for a period of 20 days from notice, is issued covering the said accounts,” said the 12-page order by the court’s fourth division.
The court set a hearing on Dec. 3 to determine whether the order “shall be modified, lifted or extended.”
“It was suspected that funds were not only used in money laundering activities but also in terrorist financing,” the court said.
Asked about the terrorism angle in a news briefing on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said: “I don’t have the particulars on that and even if I do have that, I don’t think I can share it with you.”
Frozen were bank accounts under the names of Manuel Amalilio, Aman Futures Group Phils., Aman Future Trading, Aman Investment Opportunities, Okachi Futures Trading, Aman Air, Lurix Bitoon Lopez, Leilan Lim Gan, Uni Gen Future Exchange Marketing, Eduard Lecaros Lim, Wilanie Fuentes, Naezelle M. Rodriguez, Fernando Roda Luna, Fretz and Sha Trading, Rioklyn P. Toledo, Jerome John D. Valera, Jerome B. Sanchez, Nino Jorino D. Ledesma, Rico Crisostomo Medina Jr., Diosdado Manolo Yap Dybongco, Michelle Gaceta, Nimfa Caballero Luna and Asaza Auto Center.
The accounts were in Allied Banking Corp., Banco de Oro Unibank, Bank of Commerce, Bank of the Philippine Islands, BPI Family Savings Bank, China Banking Corp., Citibank N.A., Development Bank of the Philippines, East West Banking Corp., Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., Land Bank of the Philippines, Maybank Philippines, Metrobank Card Corp., Metrobank and Trust Company, One Network Bank Inc., Orix Metro Leasing and Finance Company, Philippine Bank Communication, Philippine Savings Bank, RCBC Savings Bank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., Security Bank Corp., Standard Chartered Bank, Union Bank of the Philippines and United Coconut Planters Bank, Philippine National Bank and BPI Philam Life Assurance Corp.
NBI checking deposits
In a news conference announcing the court action, De Lima said Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza told her that these banks had received the court order and that “most of them, if not all,” had complied.
De Lima said the NBI was still validating the amount involved. She said the NBI had asked the AMLC as early as last July for information on the accounts.
The court in its resolution noted the July 9 letter of NBI lawyer Cesar Bacani, who said the bank accounts “were being used in the modus operandi of enticing persons and groups to invest in the operation wherein investors will earn more or less 30 percent of their capital within a span of eight days.”
Investors were asked to deposit their investments in the bank under the account name Aman Futures Trading, or Okachi Future Trading, or Uniden Future Exchange, the court said.
It said the NBI disclosed that the proceeds of the investments were transferred from Pagadian City to Cebu City, where unspecified “Malaysian” operators were situated.
In addition to Co and his wife, the NBI also recommended the prosecution of Manuel Amalilio, Fernando Luna, Leilan Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, Wilanie Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez, Lurix Lopez, Mohammad Hassan Mackno, Dimasara Jova and Ian Madarang.
Amalilio is said to be the brains behind the scam while Luna, a former janitor and driver, served as the firm’s manager. Both of them are in hiding. Gan, Lim, Fuentes, Rodriguez and Fuentes, who were on Aman’s board of directors, surrendered over the weekend. Mackno, Jove and Madarang, who were investment agents, are also under NBI custody.
‘Respected’ people as bait
In its five-page complaint, the NBI said Ala claimed to have invested a total of P7.89 million through Mackno, who reportedly deposited the money in the bank account of Co’s wife, also identified as Ilang-Ilang Co.
The NBI said Ala was enticed to invest because of the huge return of investment offered. It said Ala was told that “several respected personalities in Pagadian City were actually involved in these seemingly lucrative activities,” like the chief of police of Pagadian, Senior Insp. Kenneth Mission, and the city mayor and his wife.
But no cash outs and interests were given to Ala, although he was promised a return of from 58 percent to 62 percent in 16 to 17 days for the three tranches investments he had made.
Tapayan, on the other hand, invested P2.12 million in three tranches through Madarang, said to be Co’s trusted aide.
But Tapayan was informed by Madarang on Oct. 2 that he could no longer cash his interests because Co had announced that Aman was no longer operating.
Tapayan confronted Co’s wife, who told him to wait for her husband’s return to Manila to settle the problem. But upon Co’s return, the mayor refused to return his investments.
A third complainant, Norolhaya Taha, said he invested P1 million in July, which he raised through other investors. He was promised a 100 percent return after 30 days but never got this.