ILIGAN- Former Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co on Thursday pleaded not guilty to syndicated estafa charges filed against him in connection with the Aman Futures investment scam.
Judge Albert Quinto of the Iligan City Regional Trial Court, Branch also granted Co's appeal to remain under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) due to alleged threats to his life. Co's wife is also currently under the custody of the agency.
The panel of prosecutors, however, clarified that the state will not shoulder Co's travel expenses when attending hearings in Iligan City. The pre-trial is scheduled on March 11, 2014.
Co is a co-accused in the multi-billion peso Aman Futures investment scam, allegedly masterminded by Manuel Amalilio who remains at large. Four syndicated estafa complaints against Co were filed with the Department of Justice.
He and his wife were arrested at The Aston at Two Serendra, Bonifacio Global City last December.
The Co couple denied allegations that they personally received money from investors, stating that the complainants were not able to present proof for their claims.
They also denied some of the complainants' claims that some investors deposited their investments in Mrs. Co's bank account. In connection with this, the court has ordered banks to produce statements of account showing where the supposed funds solicited from investors were deposited.
Despite their denial of being involved in the scam, the Co couple admitted they once invested in Aman Futures and lost money to the firm.
Co also defended himself from criticisms that he allowed Aman Futures to operate right under his nose, claiming that he initially suspended the firm's license to operate.
The former mayor is confident that the hearings would proceed faster. He also reiterated his claim that he was just dragged into the fund mess by his political enemies.
Meanwhile, a co-accused in the charges, Oliver Dequito, failed to show up in today's arraignment, but his legal counsel filed a petition for bail in the absence of evidence linking him to the scam.