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WHAT WENT BEFORE: P12-B Aman Futures scam

Manuel K. Amalilio fled the country before the National Bureau of Investigation  broke the news in mid-November that his company, Aman Futures Group, had duped at least 15,000 people of P12 billion in a Ponzi scheme.

The funds reportedly allowed Amalilio to acquire eight planes and two helicopters, as well as two units at Upper McKinley Hills Garden Villas in Taguig City, a house in Cebu City and another in Dapitan City.

The NBI initially described Amalilio as having Filipino-Malaysian roots, and using the Malaysian name Mohammad Suffian Saaid. The bureau later said he could have been born and raised in Tarlac province.

Amalilio put up the firm early last year and started operations in Pagadian City, luring investors by offering them a return of 30-40 percent in eight days and a return of 50-80 percent in 18-20 days.

The firm soon expanded to other parts of Mindanao and to Cebu City.

The first investors of the company were low-income people but professionals and retired employees followed because of the promise of a high return on investment.

In September, investors started filing complaints in the NBI against the firm for its failure to pay back their money. On Sept. 27, Aman Futures’ office closed down and its personnel were nowhere to be found.

In October, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a cease and desist order to Aman Futures to stop offering, soliciting or selling unregistered securities to the public.

Scores of the firm’s victims then filed charges of syndicated estafa, a nonbailable offense, against Amalilio and his cohorts.

On Nov. 14, the NBI confirmed that Amalilio had flown to Kota Kinabalu, prompting Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya to work with Malaysian authorities to bring him back to the country. The Bureau of Immigration also issued a lookout bulletin against 38 people said to be involved in the scam.

On Nov. 16, a 14-member special panel of prosecutors convened for the first time to begin its preliminary investigation of the investment scam.

The panel was tasked by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima with prosecuting perpetrators of the scam and file syndicated estafa cases against them.

On Nov. 20, the Court of Appeals ordered the freezing of the bank accounts of 23 Aman Futures executives and their companies. The order covered accounts in 25 banks and financial institutions.

On Nov. 25, five of the six directors of the board of Aman Futures surrendered to the NBI as they feared retribution from irate investors. They were Leilan Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, Wilanie Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez and Lurix Lopez.

On Nov. 28, the NBI filed in the Department of Justice (DOJ) charges of syndicated estafa against Mayor Samuel Co of Pagadian City, his wife and 10 others, after they were implicated by investors.

The SEC also hit the firm’s directors for engaging in fraudulent transactions and operating without the proper registration, violating Sections 8 and 26 of Republic Act No. 8799, the Securities Regulation Code.

In December, the appellate court froze an additional 141 bank accounts in connection with the scam, including 79 bank accounts belonging to Co and 29 to his wife.

On Dec. 27, Fernando Luna, who was identified as president of Aman Futures, surfaced at the DOJ and claimed he was merely the “personal driver” of Amalilio.

Luna told reporters his brother introduced him to Amalilio, who was in need of a personal driver. He claimed he was surprised one day when Amalilio sent him boxes of documents for him to sign. Luna said he found out later that Amalilio had appointed him president of at least three Aman firms.

Luna also recounted that unidentified people destroyed and burned houses owned by his family and relatives, as some victims took the law into their hands. Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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Tags: Aman Futures , investment scam , Manuel Amalilio , Ponzi scheme

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