MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA), upon petition by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), has frozen the bank deposits of Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co, who is being linked to the P12-billion Aman Futures pyramiding scam.
Julia Bacay-Abad of the AMLC legal services group told the House committee on banks yesterday that the CA freeze order, issued last Monday, covers 79 accounts in the name of Co and an additional 29 in the name of his wife.
“We are still verifying if they have other deposits and how much is held in the frozen accounts,” she said.
Abad said there are more than 400 frozen accounts of individuals linked to the Aman scam, including those of the group’s principal owner, Manuel Amalilio, and his directors and officers.
Co has claimed that he is a victim and not among the perpetrators of the scam. However, scores of victims have filed complaints against him with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Last week, AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino told the committee chaired by Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol that some P200 million in bank deposits attributed to Amalilio have been frozen.
The committee’s inquiry was prompted by a resolution filed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City. Many of Aman’s victims are his constituents.
While the AMLC has taken steps to freeze the bank deposits of Amalilio and other alleged scam perpetrators, the Apostol panel found out that the DOJ has not formally charged any of them.
This prompted Rodriguez to accuse the NBI and the DOJ of dilly-dallying.
“This scam has been in the news for several months now. Victims filed their first complaint in Pagadian City on Oct. 16. It’s now nearly two months and the DOJ is still in the stage of preliminary investigation, which means that no one has been charged. There is no case against any suspect and there has been no arrest,” he said.
“How can we tell our people that the concerned agencies of government want to protect them and recover the money that has been scammed from them?” he asked.
Rodriguez lamented that not one of Amalilio’s five directors who surrendered to the NBI and who should be considered as suspects has been formally charged. He said the five enjoy the so-called protective custody of the NBI and are being treated as VIPs.
Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. faulted the NBI and police forces in areas where Aman Futures operated for not detecting the scam and taking steps to prevent other people from being victimized.
“This fraudulent scheme was exposed early this year and Aman stepped up operations in May-June. The NBI and the Philippine National Police, which have agents on the ground, should have stopped this before it became a P12-billion pyramiding operation,” he said.
Virgilio Mendez of the NBI told the Apostol panel that Amalilio and other scam perpetrators enjoyed police protection.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has relieved eight provincial and city police chiefs for involvement in the scam or failing to stop it and protect victims.
DOJ working double time
Meanwhile, the DOJ vowed to complete before Christmas its investigation of Amalilio’s investment scam.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, head of DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said he expects the special panel of prosecutors conducting preliminary investigation to resolve the initial complaints against Amalilio, the firm’s board members and agents after their hearing in Pagadian City on Dec. 17.
“Hopefully, we will file the case in court and secure arrest warrant by then,” Arellano told reporters in a press conference, denying the claim of critics that the DOJ has been slow in its preliminary investigation.