Learning from past cases

Visitors to Sunshine Empire's Toa Payoh office were turned away on Nov 13, 2007, after the authorities started investigating it. About 180 ex-investors of The Gold Guarantee, which was set up in 2011, signed a petition at Hong Lim Park on March 6, 20
Visitors to Sunshine Empire's Toa Payoh office were turned away on Nov 13, 2007, after the authorities started investigating it.TNP FILE PHOTO
Visitors to Sunshine Empire's Toa Payoh office were turned away on Nov 13, 2007, after the authorities started investigating it. About 180 ex-investors of The Gold Guarantee, which was set up in 2011, signed a petition at Hong Lim Park on March 6, 20
About 180 ex-investors of The Gold Guarantee, which was set up in 2011, signed a petition at Hong Lim Park on March 6, 2013, to urge the authorities to step up investigations into the business.ST FILE PHOTO

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD Last year, disgruntled customers lodged reports against investment firms Valiant Capital and Suisse International. Both companies offered gold buy-back schemes but failed to pay investors the money promised.

In 2013, The Gold Guarantee founder Lee Song Teck went on the run and, a year earlier, more than 10,000 investors lost their money to Genneva Gold.

PROFITABLE PLOTS The firm's land-banking scheme offered an opportunity to invest in properties in Britain.

Clients were lured with promises of 12.5 per cent returns within six months. Instead, they lost $3.1 million after part of the returns was used to pay Profitable Plots' existing debts.

The firm's directors, Britons Timothy Goldring and John Nordmann, were jailed for 15 years for cheating investors after a 64-day trial that started in April 2013.

SUNSHINE EMPIRE Multi-level marketing firm Sunshine Empire sold "lifestyle packages", which included health supplements, electronics goods and other products. Returns were paid out by recycling funds from new participants.

It was likened to a Ponzi scheme where the operator does not make real profits but pays returns using funds from new investors.

It sold almost 26,000 packages and amassed about $180 million from August 2006 to October 2007.

The business ceased in 2007, and founder James Phang Wah is serving a nine-year jail term for fraud.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 28, 2016, with the headline 'Learning from past cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe