7 S'poreans face charges in Taiwan over $80m gold scam

Seven Singaporeans were charged in Taiwan for using a gold buyback scheme to cheat customers. PHOTO: REUTERS

Several Singaporeans have been charged in Taiwan over a gold scam involving some NT$1.9 billion (S$80 million), the Taiwanese media has reported.

Prosecutors in Taoyuan district on Tuesday charged Xie Siliang, 48, head honcho of the Tianjin Group, and six other Singaporeans with violating Taiwan's Banking Act over the enterprise that was reportedly inspired by a similar one in Singapore, according to the China Times news website.

Of the NT$1.9 billion that was amassed in the scam, about NT$1.6 billion has been wired to Singapore, the China Times reported.

Xie, who opened the investment company in March 2013, had promised investors 24 per cent in returns if they took part in the scheme to invest in Swiss Pamp gold bars.

According to investigators, Tianjin's scheme also guaranteed investors 1 per cent interest every month for two years, after which the company would buy back the gold at its original price.

The gold, which cost just NT$1.23 million per kg, was marketed at NT$2.6 million per kg, reported the semi-official Central News Agency.

The probe also found that the certificates for the gold given to investors were photocopies.

The company lured members in with the tantalising slogan "Gold, babes, high interest" and the persuasions of pretty 39-year-old spokesman Zeng Shaoli, dubbed the "Gold Fortune Goddess".

The core members also wooed more investors by flaunting their wealth, renting luxury cars and taking members out to sea on yachts.

Hiring Taiwan-area chairman Lin Songmao, 44, who reportedly has a wealth of experience in direct sales, Tianjin also set up an extensive multi-level marketing network so its existing members could look for other members.

To be a member and be eligible to buy the gold products, one had to pay NT$80,800 upfront.

Members got a commission of 2 per cent to 16 per cent depending on the number of other members they managed to recruit, according to Taiwan's United Daily News (UDN).

Some 200 Taiwanese were reportedly duped, said media reports.

UDN also named two other Singaporeans involved as Tianjin general manager Xie Jiaye, 42, and deputy general manager Jiang Ziwen, 57.

Twenty-five Taiwanese were also roped into the company. All 32 were charged on Tuesday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 7 S'poreans face charges in Taiwan over $80m gold scam. Subscribe