Philippines fears crimes as biggest Ponzi scam victims retaliate


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The Independent Online

The Philippines is monitoring incidents of violence in southern provinces where a 12 billion peso ($290 million) fraud that promised monthly returns of as much as 100 percent may have duped at least 15,000 people, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said.

Police are investigating at least two cases of homes burned in Mindanao, Roxas told reporters Friday in Manila. "Since the houses were owned by people connected to the fraud, there's a reasonable linkage," he said.

The Philippine government sought Malaysia and Interpol's help in arresting the suspected mastermind of the scheme, Mohammad Suffian Saaid, also known as Manuel Amalilio, who's believed to have fled to Malaysia, the National Bureau of Investigation said Thursday. President Benigno Aquino has ordered a probe into what could be the biggest Ponzi scam uncovered in the Asian nation.

Anwar Alvin Zainal, an insurance agent believed to be an incorporator of the Aman Futures Group Phils. that operated the scheme, was kidnapped and murdered this week in Zamboanga del Sur, the Philippine Star reported Friday.

Homes of two relatives of Fernando Luna, an ex-manager of the investment company, were torched by victims demanding payment, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported yesterday, citing Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez of the investigation bureau.

The scheme started in February, with investors queuing as early as 2 a.m. outside Aman Futures' office in Pagadian City, Mayor Samuel Co said by phone. "At one point, there were as many as 10,000 people lining up to invest," said Co, who invested and lost 5 million pesos himself.

Aman Futures raised the minimum investment to 200,000 pesos in July from 1,000 pesos and people had to pool their funds to be able to participate, Pagadian City Councilor Alexander Co, a nephew of the mayor, said in a separate phone interview.

"The estimate of 15,000 victims is based on investment receipts, but that could go as high as 120,000 because there could be as many as 10 people making up one transaction," councilor Co said.

Roxas told ABS-CBN News yesterday he had ordered the city treasurers of Lanao and Zamboanga del Sur to examine the spending patterns of their local governments. Police chiefs of Zamboanga del Sur and Pagadian City were removed from their posts and at least 21 police officers who invested in the scheme were recalled to prevent a whitewash, he said.