Senator Chiz Escudero said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) ignored the clear red flag signals on the investment scam group Aman Futures Group that allowed similar groups to proliferate and con thousands of people to part with their hard-earned money.

“It is a puzzle why all the tell-tale signs were ignored by AMLAC when bank transactions and activities by the Aman group and other related companies are already swelling with red flag signals. The Aman Futures scam has been in the open in Pagadian since two months ago. Evidence should have been available by now. In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission website has come out with a warning on the Aman investment scam,” the senator said.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights said had AMLAC been more insightful about these developments; the magnitude of the scam could have been abated.

“Now we need the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately secure the list of those who invested in Aman Futures and how much investments were put as this may lead to concrete evidence to support the case against the group that duped thousands of people in Mindanao and the Visayas of an estimated P12 billion.

The senator said the speedy action of the DOJ and other government agencies on the Aman Futures scam and other investment scams in Mindanao and the Visayas will help ease the pain and suffering of thousands of victims who lost billions of pesos.

He added that the DOJ should already file a case against the Aman Group motu propio given the magnitude of the case and the number of victims that have so far come out. “RA 9160 and RA 9194 and its implementing rules will form the basis of this act”.

“The DOJ has been facilitating complaints through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), that is a correct standard procedure.

Escudero issued the call after Aman directors Leila Lim Gan, Edmund G. Lim, Wilanie Fuentes, Nazelle Rodriguez, and Lurix Lopez surrendered to authorities over the weekend.

Aman Futures founder Malaysian Mohammad Suffian Saaid, also known as Manuel Amalilio, remains at large. He is reportedly still in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

On Tuesday, reports indicated that authorities had arrested Coco Rasuman, reportedly the mastermind of another multi-billion scam in Mindanao similar to the Aman Futures operation.

“Accounts should not be limited to Aman but should also cover those linked to it. The AMLAC has authority to freeze the principal accounts and other accounts within what is known as ‘web of accounts.’ It should be done now. Time is against the hapless investors if the scammers are already moving to siphon off their loot from the country,” he said.

“The DOJ can already come up with a solid formal case against the Aman Group to enable the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) to secure or freeze its assets,” he added.

The senator said that as a matter of course, such accounts may be frozen as long as AMLAC has probable cause to do so. “It is empowered on its own to cause the filing of petition on its own to cause freezing. The authority to freeze is by the Court of Appeals upon AMLAC’s ex-parte petition” the senator explained.

“It is also critical that the DOJ look into who invested heavily in Aman. It should pique the curiosity of the Ombudsman or the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for that matter, to look at any paper trail, data, and record and evaluate if these individuals or groups have been tax compliant,” he said.

“The Aman directors who surrendered can lead authorities to identify assets that AMLAC can take a hold of. Once assets have been found, the government should devise a system that will enable victims to recover part of their investments. The payment and recovery should start from the smallest investors upwards, not the other way around, all this to protect public interest,” Escudero said.