Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has claimed that Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman has blocked the repatriation of the country's most wanted conman.
Manuel Karingal Amalilio (left), the scam boss wanted by the Philippine police for cheating over 15,000 people of 12 billion pesos (RM895 million), was said to be Musa's nephew but Malaysian police have since denied it.
According to a report published in ABS-CBNNews.com, the news website of Philippine media conglomerate ABS-CBN last Friday, Roxas told a local TV channel that Musa has stopped the agents of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from bringing Amalillo back to the Philippines.
"It's not clear why Malaysian authorities stopped Amalilio from leaving," Roxas was quoted as saying.
He added that the Philippine enforcement officers had brought all the necessary documents with them, including Amalilio's birth certificate and his Philippine passport, to prove that the scam suspect is a Filipino citizen.
"We have complete documentation of Amalilio as a Filipino," Roxas (right) said.
Amalilio, who owns Aman Futures Group, reportedly claimed Malaysian citizenship and used the alias, Mohammad Suffian Saaid.
"Amalilio is also claiming Malaysian citizenship. That may be the intersection of the conflict," Roxas said.
According to the news report, Amalilio was arrested by Malaysian police on Jan 22 for carrying a fake Malaysian passport and identity card.
Roxas said the Department of Foreign Affairs, in particular the ambassador to Malaysia, Ed Malay, is working hard to bring Amalilio back to the country to answer a number of charges.
Deportation stopped at the last minute
Meanwhile, Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told the media that the Philippines did all it could in the failed attempt to repatriate Amalilio, as all documents of the scam suspect were in order and verified.
Philippine daily The Philippine Star also quoted De Lima (left) as saying that Malaysian officials - one of them identified by her as Musa - had intervened and stopped Amalilio's deportation last Thursday.
"His (Amalilio) flight was blocked by a Malaysian police commissioner on orders from ‘higher ups'."
She said the Malaysian police officers arrived and took Amalilio into custody about 10 minutes before he was to board the flight.
De Lima claimed that the four-member NBI team was not given a clear and acceptable reason for the last-minute intervention on what should have been a smooth deportation.
"We are still trying to verify the reason so we can determine the next step or move to ensure that we will get Amalilio," she was quoted as saying.
The justice chief said that her office might consider filing an official request for the Malaysian government's clarification to shed light on the incident.
The issue has caught the attention of Philippine President Benigno S Aquino III (right), who vowed to bring Amalilio back to face the law.
"We expect him to be brought back to the Philippines and to face trial, and with the evidence presented, to be convicted and sent to jail.
"That will serve, hopefully, as a deterrent to others," Aquino told reporters in Davos after attending the World Economic Forum.
'No link to Musa's family'
According to The Philippine Star, Amalilio's deportation was blocked due to "incomplete documents" after it was found that he is also a Malaysian national.
Quoting an insider, the daily claimed that Amalilio who also goes by the name, Mohd Kamal Saaim, has influential relatives in Malaysia.
Nevertheless, Sabah police chief Hamza Taib (right) denied the allegation against Musa yesterday and clarified that Amalilio is not in any way linked to Musa's family.
"It was my decision (to stop the move to send him back on Thursday) as we have to follow proper procedures to deport anyone.
"We have nothing against deporting the man, but (to date) there has been no request for his deportation by the Philippines," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
He elaborated that any deportation should follow the law.
The Malaysian English daily also reported that Amalilio had claimed to be a nephew of both Musa and his brother, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, while luring thousands of Filipino investors into his investment scheme, offering them an enticing 67 percent in returns.
He fled the Philippines for Sabah in November immediately after the President Aquino ordered his arrest.
Amalilio was arrested in Ranau, Sabah on Thursday, but the arrest had apparently nothing to do with the scam in the Philippines.
Hamza explained that Amalilio was held over identity issues, and that investigations were being carried out for offences under Section 12(1) D of the Passport Act 1966 that provides for a maximum fine of RM10,000 or five years' jail time, or both.
"We found him in possession of a suspected fake Philippines passport... and are now trying to establish his true citizenship," he said.
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