A group of seven Singaporeans, including their leader Chia Ser Leong, have been charged in Taiwan for marketing impure gold bullion through illegal schemes, which had scammed NT$1.9 billion (S$80 million) out of some 5,000 Taiwanese in two years, reported the island's media.
Also charged on Tuesday were 18 Taiwanese, including a 39-year-old woman named Zeng Shaoli who had used her sex appeal and flashy lifestyle to lure many into becoming franchised sales agents of the bullion, reported Taiwan's China Times and United Daily News (UDN). She was also dubbed the "Golden Goddess" by the media.
The group, which was led by Chia and operated under a Singapore company called Tianjin Group Holdings, was busted in September following complaints by some 200 Taiwanese that they had been tricked into the allegedly illegal multi-level marketing and semi-fake bullion "scam".
When visited by Shin Min Daily News yesterday in her home in Hougang, the daughter of Chia confirmed that her father had been remanded in Taiwan since September.
The Chinese evening daily also confirmed with Tianjin's employees that the 56-year-old Chia is the director of the company.
The group had touted the bullion it sold as products of the "Swiss PAMP" gold refining company, which would earn investors an impressive 24 per cent profit after two years when the group bought them back, reported UDN.
But the group charged NT$2.6 million for each kilogramme of the bullion, which was NT$1.37 million higher than the market rate.
According to the prosecutor's office in Taoyuan city, which is just outside Taipei, the bullion certificates which the group claimed were issued by Swiss PAMP have been found to be fakes.
Also, it was found that 200 pieces of gold bars confiscated were not made of pure gold.
The office also said Chia had made use of his experience in multi-level marketing to fleece money from potential franchisees.
That included making them pay NT$80,000 to buy what he touted as a "gold skincare" product before they could be awarded the right.
According to the Taiwanese media, the group had transferred NT$1.6 billion of the money they made to Singapore.
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