NBI Probing Mindanao ‘Ponzi’ Scheme

MANILA, Philippines --- The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate a company that is allegedly involved in a fraudulent Ponzi-type investment operation in several provinces in Mindanao, with payables involved now reaching to more than P10 billion.

DOJ Action Center program director Perla Duque has asked

NBI director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas to verify reports that a company in Mindanao, reportedly owned by a Malaysian national, had been illegally engaging in a supposed Ponzi-type of operation in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Misamis Occidental.

The DOJ earlier received an e-mail from a certain "Ka Steve" (real name withheld for security reasons) last August 20 that said an illegal "pyramid" investment scheme had allegedly duped investors in several provinces and cities in Mindanao.

NBI Deputy Director for Regional Operations Services (NBI-DDROS) Virgilio Mendez confirmed that the bureau was directed by the DOJ to verify the information of "Ka Steve" that some of the operations of the investment firm they were investigating had already collapsed.

Mendez declined to name the firm that the NBI is investigating as the bureau is still looking for complainants.

"This is a very disturbing report kasi based sa information na nakarating sa amin, the business transaction involved is bloated to the point of reaching billions of pesos insofar as obligations or payable are concerned," Mendez told the Manila Bulletin.

"We are encouraging those residents of Mindanao, who were lured to invest but in the end were duped in a pyramiding scheme, to come out and formalized their complaint. The NBI help will you," he said.

Citing information already gathered on the complaint, the NBI official said that the strategy of the Mindanao-based firm was no different from other ponzi-firms reported in the past.

The firm lures investors by promising them from 60 to 80 percent monthly returns on their investments. It was reported that payables in Lanao del Sur had already reached P15- to 20-billion.

Among those lured to invest in the company were alleged members of the Philippine National Police, the military, local politicians, businessmen, and government employees.

"The intelligence community is aware of this. We just hope that this will not turn out as a scam. If turns out to be a big scam, then you can just imagine the effect it will make in the economy and peace order of the areas affected," the NBI official said.

"We know the personalities involved here but we cannot do anything about it now," he said.

Mendez, however, advised persons planning to invest their money to think twice before putting their money into "something that is too good to be true."

"The people may not be happy of this. We are just hoping they are aware of the consequences of their investment. People should be wary on how they will lose their money," Mendez said.

"As for those who invested in this pyramiding scheme, we have no complainants yet, everybody is hopeful that they will receive their payments once their investments have matured. How much [will be the return of their investment] I don't know . . . I am just crossing my fingers," he said.