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PNoy wants arrest warrants vs suspects in Aman Group investment scam

(Updated 1:35 p.m.) President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the Department of Justice to fast-track the preliminary investigation on the people behind the scam allegedly perpetrated by the Aman Futures Group so that appropriate cases can be immediately filed in court and arrest warrants could be issued. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Aquino summoned her to Malacañang on Wednesday to discuss the billion-peso investment scam allegedly started by Manuel Amalilio. De Lima had to cancel a press conference at the Department of Justice building in Manila to attend the meeting. "Pinapabilis lahat iyan ni presidente. He wants a comprehensive, thorough investigation and he wants immediate action on this at may ma-issue nang warrants of arrest... kung puwede nga daw by next week," De Lima said. The DOJ chief said she has instructed Prosecutor General Claro Arellano to immediately facilitate preliminary investigation of the suspects based on complaints from the victims, so that cases can be filed in court and warrants of arrest issued against the alleged perpetrators. 8,000 complaints "Ang instructions ko sa National Prosecution Office at National Bureau of Investigation na huwag nang hintayin ang complaints kasi as of yesterday pa lang 8,000 na ang complaints," De Lima said. De Lima said she has also instructed local prosecutors in Mindanao, particularly areas like Pagadian in Zamboanga del Sur and Cagayan de Oro where the scam is prevalent, who are currently handling Aman Futures-related complaints to transmit all records of the case to the Manila-based panel specifically created to focus on the pyramid scam. "It will not be advisable kasi na doon sa mga lugar na iyon patakbuhin kasi emotions are high at baka may mga kamag-anak na maipit doon. Kaya para mas focused at walang conflicts of interest tayo, dito na hahawakan ang mga kaso," De Lima said. She has already formed a 14-member panel of prosecutors to build up a case against "20 to 30 people" who were allegedly responsible for duping 15,000 investors from Visayas and Mindanao. Apart from the DOJ panel, De Lima said a separate national task force would eventually be formed to handle the case spawned by more or less 8,000 complaints. Out of the country During a press conference Thursday at the DOJ, De Lima confirmed that Amalilio has already left the country and is currently in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. His cohorts, however, are believed to still be in the country. "We do not know how he got out and when. Basta ang information is that we confirmed he is right now in Malaysia," said National Bureau of Investigation director Nonnato Caesar Rojas. "We are coordinating with different agencies to know where he is so that by the time warrants of arrests are issued, alam namin saan siya hahanapin," he added. Both De Lima and Rojas said the government can seek the help of the International Criminal Police (Interpol). "As soon as the warrants of arrest are issued we will coordinate with the Malaysian government, the Interpol and the Embassy, so that the suspect can be arrested," Rojas said. De Lima also stressed that the Philippines can also invoke its Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Malaysia, She said a lookout bulletin order (LBO) against Aman Futures executives is now being prepared. Barred by the Supreme Court from issuing hold departure orders and watch-list orders, the DOJ has instead resorted to issuing an LBO, which requires airport and Immigration officials to inform the DOJ in case a person who is the subject of an LBO is spotted. The promise of huge returns within weeks is said to have lured investors in Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga in Mindanao, and in Cebu in the Visayas, to go for the scam.   Authorities said that representatives of Aman Futures encouraged victims to invest for 30 to 40-percent returns in eight days, and 50 to 80-percent in 18 to 20 days.   At first, the investors received the promised cash, but the company later started issuing 50-day post-dated checks that bounced for lack of funds, according to the Justice Department. — KBK/YA, GMA News