(Updated 6:49 p.m., November 15) In the wake of a get-rich-quick scheme that reportedly duped 15,000 people, including local government officials in the Visayas and Mindanao, the Department of Justice on Thursday said it is pursuing the possibility of a connection with another easy money scam.
The pyramiding scheme supposedly run by Malaysian Manuel Amalilio’s Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc. might be linked to another scam, supposedly maintained by the Jachob “Coco” Rasuman group.
That is what the Justice Department is now trying to trace – if the Rasuman operations is part of Aman Futures, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters in a briefing.
“Related ang kanilang modus operandi pero ang Rasuman ay operating in Lanao and nearby provinces," De Lima noted. She said that as far as she knows, Rasuman is a Filipino.
Authorities say the Aman Futures scheme – estimated to have gotten away with P12 billion – was implemented in Kidapawan City in Cotabato, and in Cagayan de Oro City.
Because news of people getting rich in a matter of months or even weeks travels faster by word of mouth, the latest pyramid scheme in Mindanao easily spread to Cebu, luring more people into seizing the opportunity to make easy money.
Saying the probe on the Coco Rasuman group is “sensitive” in nature, De Lima declined to give further details.
In a meeting at Malacañang on Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III ordered De Lima to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the dealings of Aman Futures as well as other pyramid schemes in the country.
"The President wants a consolidated report for him to get an entire picture," De Lima said.
The Justice Department intends to unravel the extent of operations run by Coco Rasuman, and which of the two – Coco Rasuman or Aman Futures – started to operate first in the Philippines, according to the Justice secretary.
"How big is this and how massive ang scam… how pervasive, and where are the affected communities," De Lima said.
Lack of cooperation
In an interview with reporters in Tagaytay City on Thursday, Aquino said authorities could have caught the people behind the Aman Futures scheme as early as July if people had cooperated.
"Sayang. Sana noong July nahuli na natin lahat ito. Pero nahirapang mag-prosper ang kaso dahil sa absence ng witnesses, paper trail, yung magbibigay ng salaysay para maging matibay ang kaso,” Aquino said.
According to the President, officers from the National Bureau of Investigation went to talk to investors in Mindanao, only to be rebuffed by possible witnesses and complainants.
Aquino said the government could invoke the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) among ASEAN members to get Amalilio, as the Philippines does not have an MLAT directly with Malaysia. He said that the NBI is already in touch with Malaysian authorities.
Last September, a case of syndicated estafa was filed against the Coco Rasuman Group in Cagayan de Oro for its "Ponzi scheme" which entices investors to put money in the company in exchange for huge returns in two months.
According to Investopedia, a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors.
In the beginning, the scam actually yields the promised returns to earlier investors, as long as there are more new investors. These schemes usually collapse on themselves when the new investments stop.
Investopedia also describes a pyramid scheme as an illegal investment scam based on a hierarchical setup. New recruits make up the base of the pyramid and provide the funding, or so-called returns, given to the earlier investors or recruits above them. — VS/BM, GMA News