SEC, NBI grilled in House probe on Aman Futures scam

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

MANILA -- Members of a House committee investigating the P12 billion investment scam of the Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc. slammed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for being "reactive."

"You have to be proactive. The reason why we have things like these is because SEC has not been proactive but reactive," Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said in the hearing of the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries on Tuesday.

Aman Futures allegedly offered 30 percent to 80 percent return on investment over eight to 20 days. The potential for huge profits enticed thousands, initially in Pagadian City and later on in Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga, and Cebu City.

During the hearing, it was revealed that Aman Futures, which duped 15,000 people in Visayas and Mindanao, operated in February this year starting in wet markets with vendors and tricycle drivers as investors.

When Aman Futures registered before the SEC in June 22, transaction began to increase. The huge number of transactions was recorded until the first week of September.

Although the NBI started its investigation in June, they had to wait until they got a complaint in October before they filed a case against Aman Futures in the Pagadian City Prosecutor's Office.

"We've had some difficulty in encouraging people to come out and file a complaint with us. They were looking at the NBI as some sort of 'istorbo' because everybody was sort of happy with what's going on but we already felt that there was a problem; that it was a scam," NBI Director Nonatus Ceasar Rojas said.

Investors were reluctant to share information about the Aman Futures because they were warned that their investment will be affected, NBI Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez added.

The NBI said that over 11,000 complaints have been filed against Aman Futures, so far.

Meanwhile, SEC started its own investigation in August, which irked a member of the House panel, saying the agency played a "waiting game."

SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa, for her part, said that the NBI should have conducted an entrapment operation and that local government units should have also monitored early on the activities of Aman Futures.

"We cannot possibly watch each and every person trying to deposit money somewhere and see if they're putting their money in an investment scam. The better measure is to heighten public awareness," Herbos said as she appealed to congressmen to warn their constituents of these types of scam.

Representative Rodriguez, citing the Securities Regulation Code, said that the SEC has powers to investigate even without a complaint.

"Let us not wait for people to come to you. That is the reason why we felt that you were sleeping on the job," he told Herbosa.

Meanwhile, Anti-Money Laundering Council Executive Director Vicente Aquino also told the House committee that P200 million in Aman Futures accounts were frozen as of Monday. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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