Investors cry foul over builder's crowdfunding

Investors cry foul over builder's crowdfunding

A construction firm that claimed it was launching a crowdfunding effort has apparently not paid some of the investors the promised returns.

At least three investors have reported putting in between $50,000 and $100,000 each in the investment scheme, purportedly to help Soilwood finance projects.

Soilwood had claimed that banks were offering insufficient credit.

The firm is not related to the listed firm Soilbuild Group.

Soilwood, which records a Mr Daniel Leong as its director, claimed that it employed 90 staff and had completed projects, including Wisma Atria, Temasek Polytechnic and Paya Lebar MRT station.

One investor, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chan, told The Straits Times he was approached by a friend who worked for Noble Consulting Group, the company that marketed the scheme to investors.

Mr Chan, an engineer, said he attended an investment presentation, given by Noble Consulting Group director Nancy Tan to a room of about 20 people at a hotel in March 2014.

Going by documents he showed The Straits Times, investors could put in a minimum sum of $25,000 for a term of 18 months to receive a return of 4 per cent quarterly. They would receive their principal sums after 18 months.

Investors would receive a 5 per cent return for a $50,000 investment and a 6 per cent return if at least $100,000 was invested.

An investor putting in $50,000 could receive $2,500 a quarter, totalling $10,000 a year.

"I was convinced because it was a friend who introduced me to the project. I saw that there were ongoing, real projects and the payout was attractive," said Mr Chan, who invested $100,000 in September 2014.

He added: "The company said it had cashflow problems, so I thought 18 months seemed like a reasonable amount of time for them to deal with the problem."

He received three payouts totalling $7,500 from December 2014, but did not receive his payout in September last year.

He reported the case to the police that month.

A police spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment as investigations are ongoing.

Noble Consulting Group's Ms Tan declined comment when contacted by The Straits Times.The company said in an e-mail reply two weeks ago that it has made a police report and has been advised not to speak to the media.

Crowdfunding has grown in popularity in recent years, mainly fuelled by traditional lending sources tightening their criteria for borrowers since the global financial crisis.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), said it has received complaints from two investors who failed to receive their payouts in the Soilwood scheme.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said Soilwood and Noble Consulting Group are not licensed or regulated by the authorities.

On Wednesday, MAS set a new licensing regime for crowdfunding platforms, ruling that those which deal with debt and equity have to obtain a licence.

This means that firms and platforms which allow retail investors to contribute towards raising loans for small and medium-sized enterprises, and receive interest payments in return, must apply for a capital markets services licence. As they deal with retail investors, they must set aside a capital base of $500,000.

Case said investment matters do not come under its purview.

Mr Seah said: "In general, investors ought to be very careful and check on the legitimacy of such investment schemes and the relevant laws involved to seek redress, rather than just focusing on the potential returns."


This article was first published on Jun 11, 2016.
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