Ministries Announce New Investigation Into Ponzi Scheme

The interior, justice and finance ministries on Tuesday announced that they had opened an investigation into an alleged Ponzi scheme that potentially affected as many as 50,000 people.

The victims—seeking to recoup their losses—have long petitioned the government for action, with some having lost their homes or fled to Thailand to escape their debt after failed investments in Empire Big Capital (EBC).

Dy Vichea, director of the Interior Ministry’s central security department, holds up a document identifying one of three alleged masterminds in a Ponzi scheme, at a news conference at the Interior Ministry in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

In June 2015, 14 people were arrested in relation to the case, one month after authorities accused EBC of fraud and warned the public against putting money into the scheme.

Ngy Chanphal, secretary of state for the Interior Ministry, which held the news briefing, said victims had been slow to file complaints against the scheme’s alleged masterminds because they had been threatened that they would not get their money back.

“We would like all people to provide us with information if they know anything about the masterminds or their network,” Mr. Chanphal said. “We will try to arrest the masterminds…and we want the victims to get some [money back].”

Authorities identified the suspects at the briefing as Malaysian man San Tan, 32, the head of EBC; Cambodian Hout Sovann, 31, head of the related firm AIF; and Chin Gosaly, 33, also a Cambodian, head of ICA, another firm allegedly involved in the case.

Koeut Rith, secretary of state at the Justice Ministry, said he knew of 7,430 victims who had lost about $60 million altogether, and that there could be as many as 50,000 victims in total.

Mr. Rith said he would not detail how the investigation would proceed in order to avoid tipping off the suspects.

Chan Veasna, 35, who said he had lost about $50,000 in the scam, said he was optimistic that the joint force would succeed in tracking down the suspects.

“I hope and believe that the ministries will be able to find the suspects to be charged because the National Police promised to find the suspects,” Mr. Veasna said.

Sok Chan, 32, who said she had lost $100,000, was more skeptical.

Ms. Chan said she did not expect the authorities would manage to arrest the suspects.

Authorities were only putting on a show of effort to placate aggrieved victims, she said.

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