MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Saturday that the assets in Malaysia of alleged investment scam mastermind Manuel Amalilio have been frozen by Malaysian authorities.
De Lima said in a press statement that this was one of the outcomes of the talks held last Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur between Malaysia’s Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and, on the Philippine side, Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar who was assisted by Philippine Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya and two other embassy officials.
“After the meeting, the Attorney General, who is also the chair of a high-level task force administering the freezing of assets of suspected criminals in Malaysia, immediately ordered the freezing of Amalilio’s assets, such as company shares, stocks, land assets, etc.,” De Lima said.
She said the Philippine government made a formal request for the freezing and other forms of assistance under the 2004 Treaty of Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters signed by Malaysia, the Philippines and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members.
According to her, one other outcome of the talks in Kuala Lumpur was that Amalilio could be extradited to the Philippines even before he completes his two-year prison sentence for fraud charges.
“The Philippine government can have Amalilio extradited and brought to the Philippines even before full service of his two-year sentence. The Philippines can avail of the extradition process even if we do not have an extradition treaty. And, in such a process, we understand that Amalilio’s citizenship is not an issue and both sides can cooperate,” De Lima said.
This was in complete contradiction with Malaysian media reports quoting a statement from the Attorney General that he had denied Philippine officials’ request for Amalilio’s extradition since he was reportedly a Malaysian citizen.
De Lima said the Malaysian attorney general also gave an assurance that pending his final extradition or turn over to Philippines, Amalilio would be held in jail and both sides can “work out possible access” to him for Filipino police investigators and prosecutors.
Three members of parliament from Malaysia were in Manila on Friday to gather facts about the Amalilio case in the Philippines as part of their inquiry into allegations Malaysian government officials conspired to protect Amalilio and were instrumental in blocking his turnover to the Philippine authorities last month.
The MPs, who belong to opposition People’s Justice Party, said the Philippine government should question in the Malaysian courts the hastiness in convicting Amalilio. It should also be ascertained who, minutes before the deportation, had accused Amalilio of having a fake Philippine passport, which was the basis of his conviction.
“It looks as if the hastiness in pushing it through, in keeping him two years in jail, was a deliberate conspiracy to stop him from being deported and face trial in the Philippines. It seems people in higher authorities are involved,” MP Chua Tian Chang, PJP vice president, said in a television interview.
“The circumstances suggest intervention at a very high level. When the process was just about to be concluded you have the chief police officer of Sabah giving instructions to block the deportation. The judge actually goes to the hospital and he has the charge read to [Amalilio], and he pleads guilty and is immediately sentenced to jail. It’s highly unusual,” added MP Sivirasa Rasiah.
“If the Malaysians are saying that he has a false Filipino passport then where’s the evidence to that? And who should be verifying that? The Philippine authorities,” he said.
According to the MPs’ investigation, Amalilio’s mother was a first cousin of Sabah’s chief minister Musa Aman, whose brother Anifa is the Malaysian federal foreign minister. The Amans are also connected through marriage with the attorney general, the MPs added.