The Court of Appeals (CA) has frozen an additional 141 bank accounts in connection with the P12-billion Aman Futures Group Phil. investment scam, which duped around 15,000 investors earlier this year.
Among those ordered frozen were 79 bank accounts belonging to Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and 29 to his wife, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) deputy director Julia Bacay-Abad told the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries.
Abad said the AMLC has yet to determine how much was covered by the frozen bank accounts, which were included in the supplemental petition filed by the agency before the CA last Dec. 7.
Co, who is facing at least three syndicated estafa cases, skipped the committee hearing for the second time.
As authorities dig deeper into the extent of the investment scam, Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez of the National Bureau of Investigation told congressmen that at least three cooperatives and some parents-teachers’ associations had invested money in Aman Futures.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez assailed the Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to file cases against Aman officials. He noted that it had been two months since the DOJ created a special panel of prosecutors to handle the complaints against Aman.
“It’s been two months,” he said. “Don’t tell me the DOJ is also sleeping on the job.”
This was, however, denied yesterday by the DOJ which said it expected to file a case in court against the Aman officials behind the scam before Christmas.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano told reporters that some of the syndicated estafa complaints against Aman executives that are currently under preliminary investigation by a DOJ special panel of prosecutors would be submitted for resolution by Dec.17.
Another preliminary investigation hearing has been set on the Aman case on Dec.17 in Pagadian City, he said.
“We hope that before Christmas, we have a resolution and hopefully arrest warrants if we can file it in court,’’ Arellano said.
He said the panel had been working on these complaints that had been filed just three weeks ago.
Arellano also said they were evaluating whether they will refer the syndicated estafa complaint against the Pagadian City mayor to the Office of the Ombudsman for preliminary investigation.
“This is still being evaluated,’’ he said, acknowledging that this was because Co is a government official.
A syndicated estafa complaint has been filed against Co for his alleged involvement in the investment scam that had duped about 15,000 people.
Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. has raised the possibility of tightening existing laws to penalize “conspirators” in investment scams who were presenting themselves also as “victims.”
“How about the matter that the victims here are not really victims but conspirators?” he asked. “That in itself should be made an offense, if it is not yet covered by the Revised Penal Code.”
Special Prosecutor Edna Valenzuela, head of the special DOJ panel, replied: “Basically, the term ‘knowingly participating in a scheme,’ there’s already a law on that, that’s why there is a term ‘coconspirators.’”