The cheat list and the all-time admonition
“Greed has always been one of man’s failings. The hope of greater gain has lured many a man to throw caution, and his common sense, to the wind. This human foible, known to many, has been exploited throughout the ages by con men, charlatans and cheats to bilk the gullible public of their hard-earned money. History has thus seen the unraveling of various disingenuous stratagems, which, are at bottom nothing but scams. The case at hand once again proves that “a sucker is born every minute.”
The head note of a Supreme Court decision penned by the late Justice Flerida Ruth Romero on a string of estafa cases filed against the Palawan-based Panata Foundation in 1989 strikes me as a guide in understanding the concept of the law in the crime of estafa but since it made reference to the phrase coined by American showman, P.T. Barnum, the eminent Justice’s notes also come across as a scorn cast on the gullible. Significantly, it possesses all the complexities of what’s happening in contemporary society and comes out as an all-time admonition.
The Panata foundation case is a classic pyramiding scheme in which ordinary wage earners in Puerto Princesa were lured by hefty interest earnings on their meager contributions of P500. Because the foundation made good its promise of doubling or even tripling their money after 20 -30 days, people were encouraged to deposit more money. The enterprise eventually folded up and the pyramid came crashing down after only 5 months of operation. Part of Justice Romero’s notes in elegant Tagalog has a dire warning to those who love money, “Naghangad ng kagitna, isang salop ang nawala.” (Coveting one-half but losing the whole in the end).
I came across a documentation of the 10 biggest scams in the Philippines in an archived feature of the program, “On The Money” of ANC News Channel.
The cheat list in the order of known losses as of 2015 is as follows:
At number 10 is the 1994 BankCap Scam. The Bank Capital Development Corporation or Bankcap involved the alleged trading of nonexistent treasury bills passed from one bank to another through “letters of undertaking” (LoU). The scam operated for six years with the help of credit lines from banks. Known losses P900 million.
At number 9 are Frank Swiss and Deutchfranks online scams that operated from March to July 2007. The online strategy attracted politicians, celebrities and important people who were lured by interest earnings of 4.5 percent to 5 percent a day. Known losses, P1billion.
Swiss Mutual Fund International is another online investment scheme. Because it became a hit for a decade overseas, Filipinos eventually fell prey to promises of high guaranteed returns. Known losses, P1 billion.
Royal Manchester Five Trading Corporation attracted gullible investors in 2008 because the currency trading scheme promised 4 percent per month guaranteed returns. Known losses P2 billion.
Tibayan Group Investment Corporation is perched at number 6. This 2003 mutual fund scheme offered 3 to 5 percent a month for a six-month to one year lock in period. Known losses, P2 billion.
Number 5 is Mateo Investment Group, led by couple Ervin and Evelyn Mateo. In 2003, this power duo were able to assemble a select group of 20 investors who were lured by the promise of high guaranteed returns. Know losses, P4.3 billion.
At number 4 is Performance Investment Products Corporation, a foreign exchange trading enterprise set up in 2007. Huge returns of 10 to 15 percent a month enticed many rich and important people. The mastermind was Singaporean Michael Yu who who fled with US$138 million in investors’ money. Known losses, P11 billion.
Aman Futures – In 2012, more than 100,000 families in Pagadian City were enticed to engage in commodities trading that offered 80 percent profit in less than 20 days. The “miracle worker” behind the fraudulent enterprise was Malaysian national Manuel Amalilio who fled to Sabah when his pyramiding scam was uncovered.
Amalilio is said to have powerful political backers but his happy days may be over with the election victory of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. PM Ibrahim has promised to have Amalilio extradited to the Philippines and make restitution to the working class of Mindanao whom he bilked for an estimated P20 billion.
Multinational Telecom Investors Corporation (Multitel) – In 2002, thousands of individuals got burned in this investment caper that offered 4-5 percent interest a month. The Pyramiding mastermind is Rosario Rose Baladjay who together with husband Saturnino lured many people to invest in a supposed telecom enterprise backed by a German company. Baladjay put up 16 co-operatives to absorb Multitel investors. Convicted for the crime of syndicated estafa, she and her cohorts are still in jail. Known losses: P25 billion
Legacy Group – In 2008, Celso de los Angeles offered motorcycle loans and investment loan programs with guaranteed commissions of P15,000. Angeles died of cancer in 2012. Known losses, P30 billion.
(To be continued)
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