MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is likely to appeal the decision of a Malaysian court that denied its request to extradite the alleged mastermind of a P12-billion ($268.1-million)* pyramid scam.
The Sessions Court in Sabah on Monday, October 21, released Aman Futures boss Emmanuel Amalilio aka Mohammad Kamal Sa’aid after Malaysia withdrew the permission to extradite him to the Philippines.
The Borneo Post reported that there was instruction from the Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs not to extradite Amalilio, who is accused of scamming over 15,000 investors from the Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines in a Ponzi scheme.
The Philippines and Malaysia has no extradition treaty. Under Malaysian laws, countries need to get the consent of the Ministry of Home Affairs before a person of interest can be extradited.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Wednesday, October 22, the Philippine government is unhappy about the decision.
“We intend to convey through diplomatic channels our deep disappointment over this development. We would be emphasizingthe impact of Amalilio’s alleged crimes, which are large escale estafa. Filipino victims numbered thousands, thousands fell prey to his schemes. We were hoping for that extradition,” De Lima told reporters.
The Philippines had been quietly working on the case since Amalilio was nabbed by Malaysian authorities in January 2013 for carrying fake ID and passport, De lima said, but it was put on hold following the March 2013 Sabah standoff.
De Lima told reporters the Malaysian government initially gave permission to extradite Amalilio but withdrew its decision.
“We got confirmation from our embassy in Kuala Lumpur that the Office of Ministry of Home Affairs, they decided to discontinue extradition,” De Lima said. “We were quietly working on [his extradition]. Our prosecutors filed a formal request and we collaborated very closely with lawyers of attorney generals chamber of Malaysia.”
Philippine authorities are studying options on whether a motion for reconsideration can be filed to convince the Ministry of Home Affairs to change its decision.
De Lima said the DOJ is looking at the ASEAN Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (ASEAN MLAT), which is one of the possible avenues to lodge its appeal. Under the treaty, signatory countries agreed to assist a state investigating or prosecuting a criminal case.
Facing charges over the scam, Amalilio left the Philippines in November 2013. Malaysian authorities nabbed him in Kota Kinabalu in January 2013 for carrying fake ID and passport.
National Bureau of Investigation agents flew to Sabah to bring Amalilio back to the Philippines, but when they were about to leave for Manila, the Malaysian police stopped them from leaving the airport since he was a Malaysian national. The Philippines maintains he is a Filipino citizen.
Amalilio is allegedly related to Malaysian Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman, sparking speculation that his links played a role in stopping his extradition.
De Lima refused to speculate on whether she believes Malaysian officials had a hand in the situation.
“I don’t want to speculate publicly. We haven’t verified that issue because, you know, we are sovereign states, and we have good diplomatic relationship. We don’t want that relationship to become strained,” De Lima said.
Key investors, including Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co, have been charged with estafa over the scam. More than 11,000 complaints have been filed against Aman Futures so far.
Aman Futures Group Philippines Incorporated started operating in February 2012 in wet markets – with vendors and tricycle drivers as initial investors.
The Philippines has close ties with Malaysia. Aside from both being ASEAN member countries, Malaysia serves as the third-party facilitator to the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Meanwhile, the Philippines also has a dormant claim on Sabah. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P44.76