Police Make Seven More Arrests in ‘Empire’ Ponzi Scheme Case

Seven more people believed to be involved in a large-scale Ponzi scheme have been arrested and were questioned by a prosecutor in Takeo province Sunday, bringing to 14 the total number of suspects apprehended in connection with the racket.

Seven people were jailed on fraud charges in Siem Reap province last week over their role in an elaborate scam allegedly being run by a company called Empire Big Capital. Local news website Fresh News reported that another seven were arrested in Takeo province on Friday, and a prosecutor at the Takeo Provincial Court confirmed that they were questioned Sunday.

“I only questioned six of them today because I had a lot of work to do today, so I will continue questioning them tomorrow and they have been sent back to the provincial police office this evening,” deputy prosecutor Chey Rithy said, declining to discuss the case further.

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia released a statement warning members of the public against investing funds with Empire Big Capital and two connected companies.

The warning was followed by statements issued by the provincial governors of Siem Reap, Battambang and Kompong Chhnang provinces urging citizens not to invest with the unlicensed companies.

Following the Siem Reap arrests, police said the scheme was promising 10 percent monthly returns, but that investors later found themselves unable to withdraw their money.

On its website, Empire Big Capital claims to be based in Hong Kong and says that it “manages commercial activities in trade of global fund management, petroleum products, constructions managements [sic].”

A Cambodian-run website, ebccambodia.com, lists Ann Vanny as a contact person for interested investors. Mr. Vanny on Sunday defended Empire Big Capital.

“There is no cheating in our work doing business with people,” he said. “There is just exaggeration by some banks. Our members still get their money regularly.”

Mr. Vanny, 30, added that he was continuing to recruit investors and was not worried about being arrested because the company was in the process of obtaining a proper license.

“A member can invest $2,000 per package of investment, or more, if they are introduced by an existing member, who is paid a $120 commission—or a $300 commission for introducing six new members or more—by his or her previous introducer,” he said.

“I am still introducing new members through my website at home, but currently the bad news is spreading a lot so the market is quiet and we are waiting for a license.”

Shortly after Mr. Vanny spoke with a reporter, ebccambodia.com was taken offline.

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