MANILA, Philippines --- The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday denied reports that the Malaysian authorities have been blocking the extradition of Aman Futures Group Philippines founder Manuel Amalilio, who now stands as the main respondent in the alleged P12 billion syndicated estafa case filed by thousands of his investors, since his arrest in Kota Kinabalu last month.

Speaking to reporters, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima allayed fears of those who were victimized by Amalilio that the businessman's alleged familial ties with top Malaysian officials will hamper the Philippine government's efforts to have him repatriated to the country and face the bar of justice.

De Lima stressed that there was an open communication between Philippine officials and their Malaysian counterparts in connection with Amalilio's possible return to the country.

"We don't want to dwell on the issue regarding his relationship with high ranking officials. If we will dig into that, I think it will be not beneficial on our part because there is no indication that the Malaysian government is blocking our request for him to be extradited to the country," De Lima explained.

"The important thing is that the Malaysian government has assured us of their assistance," she added.

The Justice Secretary cited the recent move of Malaysian authorities to freeze the assets of Amalilio as a result of recent talks between Malaysia, represented by Attorney General Tan Sri Gani Patail, and the Philippine government, represented by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, and assisted by Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya.

Among the assets of Amalilio that were frozen were company shares, stocks and land assets, according to De Lima.

De Lima added the Malaysian attorney general gave assurance that pending Amalilio's final extradition or turnover to the Philippines, he will be kept in jail while both sides work out possible access by Philippine police and prosecutors to him.

She said the Philippine government has been granted access to Amalilio by the Malaysian government.

Amalilio is the only remaining Aman Futures official not in the custody of the Philippine government, as all his other co-accused in the syndicated estafa cases filed against them before a Pagadian court are detained here.

He fled to Sabah last September at the windfall of the Aman Futures Group Philippines. He was supposed to return to the country last January 25 after he was arrested in Kota Kinabalu for yielding a fake Malaysian passport but his deportation was stopped by Malaysian authorities from boarding the plane on the alleged orders of Malaysia's Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman

Last February 4, the Magistrate's Court in Kota Kinabalu sentenced Amalilio, also known as Mohammad Sa'ad in Malaysia, to two-year imprisonment for violation of Section 12(1) (d) of the Passport Act 1966, which provides a fine of up to RM10, 000 or jail terms of up to five years or both.

Amalilio, who was believed to be related to Musa Aman and Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman, reportedly pleaded guilty on Monday. Amalilio's counsel, Hairul Othman said the businessman was remorseful of his actions.

While she conceded to the fact that the extradition of Amalilio will be delayed, the Justice Secretary said that the Philippine government is negotiating with Malaysian authorities to have the trader's jail term be reduced so he could be brought immediately to the country.

The Philippine government, according to De Lima, is availing of the Malaysian extradition process in the absence of an extradition treaty between the two country.

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