LURED by promises of â€œgood returnsâ€ and self-confessed â€œgreedâ€, Madam Wong emptied her life savings of over $60,000 into multilevel marketing (MLM) company Sunshine Empire in 2007.
Despite initial skepticism, the 61-year-old told Today she was swayed by the convincing seminars and awestruck by the lavish furnishings at the companyâ€™s Toa Payoh Hub headquarters.
â€œIt was always very crowded and you could always see a lot of cash being handled at the counters,â€ she said.
In July that year, Mdm Wong bought two â€œgold packagesâ€ worth over $11,000 each. Unknown to her husband, she terminated her insurance policies and closed her fixed deposit accounts to take up another four gold packages later, with some of the money coming from his savings.
Another client, Mr Goh Choon Seng, had a similar story to tell â€” he bought one â€œgold packageâ€ in September 2007.
Both Mdm Wong and Mr Goh saw returns on their investments initially, but these stopped abruptly in October that year after the Criminal Affairs Department steppedin to investigate the company over concerns thatSunshine was acting as an investment fund withoutproper authorisation.
Sunshine is part of the Empire Group Alliance. On Tuesday, its founder and international president James Phang Wah, 49, was among four people charged in court for alleged criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts, among other offences.
The companyâ€™s office at Toa Payoh was empty when Today visited yesterday. Set up in July 2006, Sunshine Empire had reportedly attracted 20,000 people as of October 2007, when the Monetary Authority of Singapore put the company on its Investor Alert List.
Logo from Sunshine Empire