EBC Ponzi Scheme Victims Denounce Government Inaction

Almost a year since petitioning Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene, investors who claim they were cheated out of thousands of dollars by a now-defunct financial firm that encouraged them to buy stock in a Hong Kong-based Ponzi scheme on Monday protested that the government had still not acted on their behalf.

Asean Instrument Foundation (AIF) promised investors 10 percent monthly returns on investment in Empire Big Capital (EBC) in 2015. In May that year, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) warned that the investments were fraudulent. But AIF director Hout Sovann maintained at a conference the following month that the firm had attracted about 30,000 investors, and assured attendees that EBC was legitimate, despite the recent arrests of 14 AIF employees on fraud charges.

About 100 victims of the scheme on Monday gathered outside the Interior Ministry and handed over another petition, calling once again on the government to help them get their money back, after the scam cost some people tens of thousands of dollars and plunged them into bankruptcy, a representative said. The group also submitted a petition to the National Assembly.

Sok Sokunthy said that since last year’s petition some of the victims had sold their property to help repay bank loans they took out to invest in EBC. Others had taken refuge at pagodas, she added.

“We just want to get our capital back to return it to the banks or microfinance [institutions],” she said.

Men Bunrith, chief of the Interior Ministry’s administration department, confirmed he had received the petition and would be forwarding it on to relevant officials.

However, Mr. Bunrith said the ministry had not given a license to AIF and did not have a duty to crack down on the firm.

“This problem is caused by the investors…. It is not involved with the Interior Ministry,” he said.

Sam Onn, another victim, said he had official documents proving that the ministry, alongside the Commerce Ministry, had licensed AIF.

The group said they did not know the whereabouts of Mr. Sovann, the AIF director, who appears to have so far eluded repercussions.

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