NBI charges Pagadian mayor with estafa, graft

Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co issued a temporary permit to Aman on July 27 even if the firm did not have a secondary license, says the NBI

 PROSECUTE HIM. The NBI charged Co with estafa and graft for his alleged involvement in the Pyramid scam. Screenshot from ANC.

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Monday, December 3, charged before the justice department Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co, his employee and the city treasurer with estafa and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices for their alleged involvement in a P12-billion pyramid scam.

Investigators in the Pagadian City Field Office said Co, city treasurer Flornina Gerona and Co’s employee Haide Sepada all played roles in the pyramid scam that allegedly involved Aman Futures Group, a trading firm that duped investors in Mindanao through a “double-your-money” scheme.

Co, the NBI said, issued a temporary permit to Aman on July 27, 2012 even if the firm did not have a secondary license, which would enable it to collect cash investments from the public. 

“That paved the way for Aman to conduct its operation in Pagadian City with a semblance of legality,” the NBI said.

Co, who is running congress in the 2013 midterm elections under the ruling Liberal party, also allegedly tried to broker an amicable settlement between Aman Futures Group and one of the investors who lost money in the scam – Zaalica Adiong, who gave P3.2 million. Adiong is one of the two complainants against Co.

Adiong also said in her complaint that Sepada, Co’s employee, issued her receipts for her investments, while Gerona accepted investments for Aman in Co’s behalf.

Co has denied that he was part of the scam, however, saying he himself was its victim, having lost P30 million in investments. He admitted distributing Aman checks to investors after the company collapsed, but said he did this only to help the victims.

Co also filed a complaint against Manuel Amalilio (also known as Mohammad Suffian Saaid), founder of Aman Futures Group.

How the scam started 

The NBI also charged Amalilio and 14 other employees and executives of Aman Futures Group on Tuesday, November 4 with syndicated estafa. Amalilio is allegedly in hiding now in Sabah, Malaysia. 

The NBI said Aman Futures Group started its operations in February 2012 under the name Aman Future Trading, a company engaged in the palm oil business and foreign exchange. It claimed to be a client of Okachi company, which was based in Malaysia. Okachi authorized Aman Future Trading to go into stock trading.

Aman Futures Group was registered under the Securities Exchange Commission on June 22 with office address in Pasay.  Five of the 7 members of the board of directors said they were “dummy” officers of the firm, however. 

The group enticed people to invest by offering a 30%-40% interest rate within 8 days and a 50%-80% interest rate within 18-20 days. The firm ceased to operate on September 26, however.

The group’s manager, Fernando Luna, made this known to the public on the same day; he later left Pagadian City and went to Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte where he was last seen. 

Luna and 37 other officers of Aman Futures Group are in the travel bulletin issued by the Bureau of Immigratin on November 15; at least 5 of them surrendered to the NBI on November 24. – Rappler.com