MANILA, Philippines - Negotiations with the Malaysian government for the return of businessman Manuel Amalilio to the country to stand trial for the P12-billion investment scam that duped some 15,000 victims was stalled anew due to unavailability of officials.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed that the flight of the high-level team tasked to negotiate with Malaysian officials has been deferred for the second time.
The team of Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar and Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III was set to fly to Kuala Lumpur last week, but called it off because the official they were supposed to meet – Tan Sri Gani Patail, attorney general of the Malaysian parliament – was not available.
Patail will return to Kuala Lumpur on March 4, but by then Salazar and Paras will be unavailable to meet with him.
“They have their respective schedules around that date, so we are looking at mid-March for the meeting. I already issued a travel order for the team who will be accompanied by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano,” De Lima told reporters yesterday.
De Lima earlier said that the government would urgently work for the return of Amalilio despite his incarceration in Malaysia for two years.
She has created a four-member team of state prosecutors and state counsels for this purpose.
The team is specifically tasked to hand over the formal extradition and supplemental request involving the freezing of Amalilio’s assets and other forms of assistance.
De Lima said the team might have to fly to Malaysia several times since their assignments would not be completed in just one trip.
The DOJ chief explained that after initiating the extradition process, they would focus on securing Amalilio’s assets “in order that they can be used for purposes of the cases against him and particularly for purposes of recovery by the victims.”
She said there is urgent need to work on the forfeiture of Amalilio’s assets.
De Lima said the team would also be working on getting the affidavit of Amalilio, who is currently detained at a Kota Kinabalu jail while serving a two-year sentence for possession of a fake passport.
Following Amalilio’s botched deportation to the country last Jan. 25, the Malaysian government has moved to freeze his assets there.
The DOJ has yet to determine how much of Amalilio’s assets were frozen.