Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Over 260 investors lodge police reports on gold buyback scheme



SINGAPORE — The number of people seeking late investment returns from a gold buyback scheme run by local firm Suisse International appears to be larger than initially thought. It has also emerged a bigger amount than first thought is involved, too.

More than 100 individuals showed up at the Police Cantonment Complex yesterday to lodge reports with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). This is more than what was initially reported in the media, which said over 20 investors were affected, with about S$7 million involved.

An investor helping to coordinate the police reports, who only wanted to be known as Ms Tan, told TODAY that more than 260 investors had visited the CAD, claiming a total of more than S$35 million in losses. The ages of those affected ranged from 20 to 80, with the majority of them in their 40s to 60s, she said.

The police reports come after Suisse International failed to pay up investors by end-January — a deadline the firm had set after purportedly defaulting on payouts for months. The firm apparently promised investors returns of between 20 and 25 per cent from selling limited-edition coins made from gold that it had bought. The payouts stopped after September last year, investors allege.

Asked about the case, a police spokesperson said it was inappropriate to comment on police investigations, if any.

The police reports were made against four individuals, including the registered owner Chow Kin Loo alias Chaw Soo Ha, his son and general manager Jeffrey Chow, and his daughter Chow Wai Ying, who was its account director. A check on the Ministry of Law’s website shows Mr Jeffrey Chow as an undischarged bankrupt. A bankruptcy order was issued against him on Oct 14, 2005.

The fourth was Ms Belina Hah, said to be a vice-president in Suisse International who topped sales with over 7,000 invoices, investors said.

An investor, who only wanted to be known as Ms Sim, said they last heard from the management of Suisse International one week ago to inform them that payments would be delayed to this month.

[No links to the Swiss or Switzerland? Just like those "Singapore" schools overseas that have no links to Singapore.]

Mr Jeffrey Chow told investors that he had to close the firm’s Singapore accounts and transfer the money to its Hong Kong branch, Suisse HK, to avoid the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) scrutiny. He also persuaded them to set up bank accounts in Hong Kong so as to have their payments continued, said Ms Sim.

Another investor, a retiree in his 50s, said that he had not received any payments after setting up a bank account in Hong Kong.

Investors whom TODAY spoke to said that they were investing for their retirement or for their children’s further education.

Another vice-president of Suisse International, Mr Michael Ng, was also among those at the CAD yesterday, saying he was there to represent his clients.

He claimed to be unaware of the company’s management’s plans and that he had also lost money in the scheme, but declined to say how much.

Although he initially said he came to know Mr Jeffrey Chow only a couple of months before Suisse International was set up in 2013, Mr Ng, after being pressed, said the two met during his time at The Gold Guarantee, whose founder Lee Song Teck disappeared with tens of thousands of dollars early last year.

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