Board members of firm behind pyramid scam ‘dummies’

Officers of the Aman Futures Group claim they didn't know the group is operating a pyramid scam

SURRENDERED. Five of the 7 executives of the Aman Futures Group show up at the preliminary probe of the pyramid scam in the Department of Justice.

MANILA, Philippines – Leila Lim Gan didn’t have a clue about what being a board director of a trading firm meant, and so did Lurix Lopez.

The two, who both tried their luck with the double-your-money scheme offered by the Aman Futures Group early this year, just saw their names listed as directors of the company in June even if they did not put in capital money.

“A corporate lawyer talked to us. Since there was a lawyer, I thought the business was legit,” the 32-year-old Lopez said in the vernacular. 

“We were dummies there. Our names were listed as board directors without us putting any amount of money.”

Gan said the same. “The lawyer was very nice. He said he needed our names to have the company registered. I allowed him to put my name but I didn’t give any money.”

Both Gan and Lopez refused to name who the lawyer was.

Agreeing to have their names added as directors of Aman Futures Group put them in hot water, however, as around 100 investors filed complaints against them, accusing them of running away with their hard-earned savings. 

Gan and Lopez were executives of the Aman Futures Group, the company that was reportedly behind the P12-billion pyramid scam that victimized around 10,000 people mostly from Pagadian City, Cagayan de Oro and Cebu City. 

Gan, Lopez and 3 other members of the board – Edmund Lim, Wilanie Fuentes and Nazelle Rodriguez – showed up at the Department of Justice on Tuesday, November 27, to file their sworn affidavits during the preliminary investigation. 

Prior to that, on November 24, the 5 surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation. Their lawyer, Jose Cabatu Jr., said they wanted to seek protective custody, and that their request was granted on November 27.

Gan said she received death threats, having been known in Cebu as the main recruiter of investors for Aman Futures Group.

Lopez, meanwhile, denied he went into hiding, saying he is ready to submit himself to investigation. “I am not hiding from the law, I am hiding from the people who are angry at us.” 

The DOJ investigating panel is handling 5 complaints against Aman Futures Group; two new complaints have been filed on November 27 by 50 policemen. Fourteen complainants said they lost P89 million worth of investments in the group.

Rodriguez said that when trouble started brewing with investors complaining about their money, Manuel Amalilio – also known as Mohammad Suffian Saaid, the founder of the Aman Futures group – only told them that he was having a hard time getting funds from another business in Malaysia. 

Lopez, on the other hand, said he last saw Amalilio in September.

The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a cease-and-desist order against the Aman Futures Group in October. Amalilio then fled to Sabah, Malaysia on November 14.

Lopez said he never thought Amalilio will deceive people. He said the latter even lent him P25,000 additional capital for his frozen meat products business. Lopez said Amalilio was known in his hometwon Dipolog City as a generous man.

Lopez said he invested P10,000 in March in Aman Futures Group and got P13,000 7 days after. It was easy money. Amalilio, however, now owed him money, an amount Lopez declined to disclose.

Aside from Lopez and the 5 other directors of the board, 3 employees of the Aman Futures Group – Connie Flor Grace Paner, Dhurwer Wenceslao and Marione Paul Paner – were also named respondents in the 5 complaints. 

The DOJ will hold two more preliminary hearings on the case – one in Pagadian City on December 5 and another in Cagayan de Oro City on December 7. – Rappler.com