SEC warns against other Internet racket

By Elizabeth Sanchez-Lacson
Inquirer

Last updated 00:05am (Mla time) 07/14/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Securities and Exchange Commission says that suspected Internet-based Ponzi investment schemes “SMFund.Com” and “sminvestment.com”, which are apparently riding on the popularity of a giant retail chain, do not have licenses, registrations nor permits from the SEC to solicit funds from the public.

 

To avoid confusion, SM Investments Corp., the holding firm for retail tycoon Henry Sy’s investments in leisure property development, banks, malls and retail operations, has issued a notice to the public that SMIC, its subsidiaries and affiliates are not in any way connected with SMFund.com, sminvestment.com and any other website asking for solicitations online.

 

SMIC lawyers on Thursday said the group plans to file a breach of trademark complaint with the intellectual property office against the perpetrators of the scam once the SEC has identified them.

 

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) also warned the operators of the scam that it will apply to the full force of the anti-money laundering law against them.

 

AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino said that AMLC is coordinating with the SEC, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and the National Telecommunications Commission and other government agencies to ensure that these operations or activities do not spread.

 

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves paying abnormally high, short-term returns to investors out of the money raised from new investors, rather than from profits generated by any real business.

 

SEC compliance and enforcement director Hubert Guevara said that the minimum investment being solicited by SMFund.com based on its website is $10 with a guaranteed interest rate of 2 to 3 percent a day.

 

In its website, SMFund describes itself as “an independently-owned and operated by highly trained experienced financial professionals.” It was supposedly established in early 2001.

 

Guevara said two victims, whom he refused to identify, have complained that they lost their money in the scheme.

 

“This is another scheme, and it is the same modus operandi as Francswiss (Ponzi scheme). We are now monitoring this entity, SMFund.Com,” Guevara said.

 

Guevara said that the SEC is also monitoring 50 to 100 entities on its “blacklist” which are suspected to be involved in Internet-based Ponzi schemes.

 

The SEC recently identified some of these Internet–based Ponzi schemes as Francswiss, Swiss Cash, Universal Forex System, Global America and Private Forex Trade Inc.

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