Revenge attacks in southern Philippines over Ponzi scheme

Fraud suspect reported killed after homes of manager's relatives burned

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 3:04am

The Philippines is monitoring incidents of revenge violence in southern provinces where a 12 billion peso (HK$2.25 billion) Ponzi scheme may have duped at least 15,000 people.

One of the fraud suspects was yesterday reported to have been murdered.

Police are also investigating at least two cases of homes that were set on fire on the southern island of Mindanao, Secretary of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas said in Manila.

"Since the houses were owned by people connected to the fraud, there's a reasonable linkage," he said.

The Philippine government had sought help from Malaysia and Interpol in arresting the suspected mastermind of the scheme, the National Bureau of Investigation said. Mohammad Suffian Saaid, also known as Manuel Amalilio, was believed to have fled to Kota Kinabalu, capital of Malaysia's Sabah state.

President Benigno Aquino has ordered an investigation into what could be the biggest Ponzi scam uncovered in the Philippines. Investors were promised monthly returns of as much as 100 per cent.

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

Homes of two relatives of Fernando Luna, a former manager of the investment company, were torched by victims who had gone to demand payment, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, citing Virgilio Mendez, deputy director of the investigation bureau.

The scheme started in February, with investors queuing as early as 2am outside Aman Futures' office in Pagadian City, Mayor Samuel Co said by telephone yesterday.

"At one point, there were as many as 10,000 people lining up to invest," said Co, who invested and lost five million pesos.

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 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," he said.

Roxas told ABS-CBN News yesterday that 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 of the investigation, he said.