Malaysia says it's keeping Philippine scam mastermind

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Malaysia has no plans to extradite Manuel Karingal Amalilio (aka Mohammad Kamal Sa'ad), who is wanted by Philippine authorities for allegedly swindling 15,000 Filipinos of P12 billion in a fraudulent investment scheme, but who has been sentenced to two years' imprisonment by a Sabah court for possession of a fake Philippine passport.

In a statement reported in Malaysia's Star newspaper on Saturday, Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail said Malaysia would not extradite "Mohammad Kamal" since he is a Malaysian citizen holding a valid and active identification card.

However, relevant authorities have been directed to check and freeze all financial records and assets belonging to Amalilio and his associates, the Star quoted Gani as saying.

In the same statement, Gani said the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had requested Amalilio's extradition.

He said Philippine Justice Undersecretary Jose Vincent B. Salazar had also requested that the Malaysian government freeze Amalilio's assets, savings and investments and those owned by people related to him.

He also said that the Attorney General's Chambers had received a formal request from the Philippines' Department of Justice to hand over Amalilio to the Philippines under the Asean Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act of 2004.

Separate court

Gani said the request was being handled by the international affairs division of the Attorney General's Chambers, a separate court for the states of Sabah and Sarawak which deals with civil law matters affecting the two state governments.

The attorney general, the principal legal adviser to the government of Malaysia as well as being the country's highest ranking public prosecutor, also heads the Attorney General's Chambers.

A team of lawmen from the Philippines was about to board a plane for Manila at the Kota Kinabalu airport on Jan. 25 with Amalilio following the turnover of the fugitive by the Malaysian police when they were stopped by senior Malaysian police officials. Amalilio was returned to Malaysian police custody and subsequently convicted and sentenced for fraud by a Kota Kinabalu court.

Malacanang on Saturday insisted that the Malayasian attorney general had not really rejected the Philippines' request for Amalilio's extradition.

The Aquino administration was not expecting Amalilio's "immediate extradition" to the Philippines, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in separate phone interviews.

Lacierda said that the Philippines had not formally sought the extradition of Amalilio so it could not be true that Malaysia had "rejected the (extradition) which we did not ask for."

In a separate statement yesterday, De Lima said that as a result of initial talks in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday, the Philippines had been assured that Amalilio could be extradited to the Philippines even before he finished his two-year prison sentence.

"The Philippine government can have Amalilio extradited and brought to the Philippines even before the 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," she said.

She said this was the result of a meeting that was held last Wednesday between the Malaysian attorney general on one side and Justice Undersecretary Salazar, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya and two other embassy officials.

"We and the Malaysian government agreed that Mr. Amalilio could be extradited subsequently even without completing his two-year sentence," said De Lima.

The meeting also resulted in the Malaysian attorney general ordering the immediate freezing of Amalilio's assets, such as shares, stocks and land, she said.

She said Gani also gave an assurance that pending his final extradition or turnover to Philippine authorities, Amalilio would be kept in jail and both sides could "work out possible access" to him for Filipino police investigators and prosecutors.

Parliamentarians arrive

Meanwhile, three opposition members of the Malaysianparliament who arrived in Manila on Friday to gather facts about Amalilio's case in the Philippines, said the Philippine government should question before the Malaysian courts the hasty conviction of Amalilio.

The MPs, who belong to the opposition Peoples' Justice Party, said their trip was part of their inquiry into Malaysian officials allegedly conspiring to protect Amalilio and who were allegedly instrumental in blocking his turnover to Philippine authorities last month.

Deliberate conspiracy

"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 to face trial in the Philippines. It seems higher authorities are involved," MP Chua Tian Chang, PJP vice president, said in a television interview.

"The circumstances suggest intervention at the very highest levels. 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," said MP

Sivirasa Rasiah.

The MPs said their investigation found that Amalilio's mother was a first cousin of Sabah's Chief Minister Musa Aman, whose brother Anifa is the Malaysian foreign minister. The Amans are also related through marriage to the attorney general, the MPs added.

With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Star/Asian News Network

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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