Thu, Apr 04, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Authorities detain, question nine Bravo executives, staff over fraud allegations

PONZI SCHEME:The company promoted the program on social media and promised greater payouts to those who recruited friends and family into the lower levels

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Taipei police have detained nine Bravo Group (百博集團) executives and staff in connection to an illegal investment scheme that has defrauded at least 2,400 people of NT$100 million (US$3.2 million at the current exchange rate) over the past two years.

Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau officers and Taipei police on Monday raided 12 locations in Taipei and took nine suspects in for questioning.

Taipei prosecutors on Tuesday began questioning Bravo director Yu Chien-hung (余建宏), business manager Chen Chia-sui (陳嘉穗) and manager Wu Cheng-huan (吳承桓), and requested to detain the three pending further investigation.

An investigation had found evidence of illegal financial transactions and other fraudulent practices, prosecutors said, adding that the suspects would likely face charges for fraud and breaches of the Banking Act (銀行法).

Bureau investigators said that the executives allegedly began the scheme in 2017, luring would-be investors by claiming to provide returns of 60 to 70 percent per month on investments from NT$1,000 to NT$350,000 per unit.

Bravo circulated promotions on Facebook, Line and other social media to attract members into the program, which was allegedly set up like a Ponzi scheme with promises of greater payouts to those who recruit friends and family into the lower levels, they said.

The company also allegedly promised larger returns based onmembership level, from diamond and gold to silver and bronze, they added.

“When I joined I put in a few thousand dollars and received profitable returns. Later, they said the minimum investment for members was NT$50,000, which I invested,” a victim surnamed Huang (黃) was quoted as saying by authorities. “However, later they said that the bonuses needed to be readjusted due to overpayment, and then they announced a temporary postponement.”

After not receiving any further returns by April last year, Huang said that she and her friends realized the program was a scam and filed complaints with the authorities.

Yu, Chen and Wu were reportedly the main operators, while the other six suspects were subordinates who collected money and were released on bail of up to NT$200,000.

The nine suspects, all in their 20s, used slick promotions and deceptive practice to lure members and investors, which according to the company’s Web site numbered more than 34,000 and 16,000 respectively, although the evidence indicated that about 2,400 people had been defrauded, investigators said.

The investigation would continue, officials said, adding that the young age of the suspects could indicate that there are more experienced criminals operating in the background as the real masterminds of the scheme.

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