SEC uncovers P244-M double-your-money scam
MANILA, Philippines—The Securities and Exchange Commission has uncovered a P244-million “double-your-money” scam perpetrated by a Pasay-based trading firm Aman Futures Group Phils. Inc. that allegedly victimized investors—especially low-income earners—in Pagadian City and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
Based on a cease-and-desist order (CDO) dated Oct. 8 issued by the five-member SEC en banc chaired by Teresita Herbosa, Aman Futures was directed to immediately stop offering unregistered securities, soliciting investments or pooling funds. “Unless restrained,” the SEC said this company would “ operate as a fraud on investors or is otherwise likely to cause grade or irreparable injury or prejudice to the investing public.”
After the CDO decision, Herbosa told reporters that the next step would be to “find basis for a criminal complaint” with the help of witnesses.
Citing the need to “forestall grave damage and prejudice to all concerned and to ensure the preservation of the assets” for the benefit of investors, Aman or any of its representatives, salesmen and agents were barred from transacting any businesses involving the funds in its depository bank. They were also prevented from transferring, disposing or conveying any of the assets – real or personal, including bank deposits – of involved persons.
Aman Futures is chaired by one Manuel Amalilio, a Filipino of Malaysian descent, whose alleged scheme was to solicit investments or money placements, promising to return the entire sum in the form of post-dated checks plus investment profit raging from 15 to 30 percent to as high as 40 percent. The SEC said “it appears that what lures investors in parting with their money is the promise and corresponding expectation of high returns or profits.”
The en banc’s order was based on a report by the SEC enforcement and prosecution department (EPD), which in turn acted on complaints from concerned citizens and government agencies about this alleged double-your-money scam. Based on the EPD report, “people are allegedly lining up every day in order to invest their hard-earned money in the hope of receiving the promised return.”
Citing a September 6 conference with Aman Futures, the SEC documents noted that the company’s corporate secretary Isagani Laluna and Lurix Lopez, one of the directors, claimed that Amalilio was a long-time commodity futures trader in Malaysia and Japan. They said Aman Futures accepted investments or money placements via checks or bank transfers and at the end of a 20- to 30-day period, Aman Futures would put into the investor’s account the principal plus the profit ranging from 15 to 40 percent.
The Aman Futures officials said Aman Futures had a customer agreement with Malaysian brokerage firm Okachi (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. that in turn engages in futures trading of commodities such as oil, manganese, palm oil and nickel.
The SEC uncovered four “grave” violations of the Securities Regulation Code by Aman Futures in this case.
- non-registration of securities sold as investment contracts;
- non-registration as broker or dealer but acting as such;
- engaging in commodity futures contracts despite a prohibition by the SEC; and,
- engaging in activities that are “off tangent” with the company’s primary purpose as a general trading company.
“Nowhere in the primary purpose of Aman Futures is it stated that the company can engage in the business of soliciting and accepting investments and money placements from the public,” the order said.
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