Saturday, April 20

Costly leap of faith

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Bogus investment scheme by couple snares Christians in Sarawak, whopping RM60 million in losses

 

Ong gives an account on how the couple deceived investors. – Photo courtesy of Oriental Daily

KUCHING: About 300 Sarawakian Christians lost a staggering RM60 million to a fraudulent venture set up by a couple, who convinced them into investing ‘for the sake of God’s blessings’.

The couple in question, said to be a Malaysian and an Indonesian, claimed to be permanent residents of Singapore.

It is said they had set up a company to promote a Nipah palm project following a visit to Miri in March 2008 and recruited an agent to approach Christians from various churches in the state, starting from May the same year, to kick-start the venture.

In a press conference on the matter in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday in the presence of Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng, one of the victims, Ong Hong Kheng said the couple claimed to possess a plantation area of 20,000 hectares in Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province.

The 60-year-old Ong, who is from Bintulu, said investors were promised a monthly return of one per cent for the amount invested within three years.

“Investors did receive what they were promised in the first two years. This, however, ceased from the year 2011.

“Between 2008 and 2013, the couple deceived about 300 victims, mostly Christians, pastors and local Bumiputeras, with an estimated loss of up to RM60 million,” Ong said.

Ong holds up the police report during a photo call at the conference. On his left is Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng. – Photo courtesy of Oriental Daily

He admitted that ‘one or two’ investors did raise suspicion over the venture, and proceeded to conduct some background checks and verification on the financial reports.

Upon discovering that documents signed between investors and the couple were not legally recognised, it dawned on them that investors had been deceived.

According to Ong, the agent – upon learning that investors planned to lodge a police report – told them ‘devoted Christians would not be dishonest with others’ and advised them to deal with the matter privately.

He added that a police report was eventually lodged in Miri on Aug 25 last year, but that the investigation appeared to have stalled.

He said his decision to go public in Kuala Lumpur through the press conference was in the hope that police will thoroughly probe the case and trace where their investments had been channelled to, in order to help investors get back their hard-earned money.

Ong told The Borneo Post that MP Lim had agreed to submit the relevant documents to Attorney General’s Chamber for review.

 

Editor’s note: It was mentioned in the print version that a police report was lodged in Miri on Feb 25, it should be August 25.