Friday, January 12, 2018

Possibly the largest case of private sector fraud in Laos

Original Title:  800 billion kip declared lost to PS Lao Enterprise
By:   Souksakhone Vaenkeo, Vientiane Times, January 9, 2018

PS Lao Enterprise logo

More than 30,000 people have declared that they deposited a combined 800 billion kip with PS Lao Enterprise after the company unlawfully solicited money from them, authorities said yesterday.

The declaration was made after a task force committee, established by the government to deal with the case, issued an announcement asking victims to declare their losses.

Members of the public deposited money with the business after being enticed by the promise of high interest rates.

President of the enterprise, Ms. Souknaly Thepsimeuang, and 11 other key members of the company are in custody following their arrest in September last year after a public protest.

They have been charged with fraud, Director General of the Economic Affairs Police Department of the Ministry of Public Security, Colonel Khamkeo Manola, told Vientiane Times yesterday.

Investigators are filing the case so that it can be submitted to prosecutors, he added.

Established in 2012 and officially known as PS-Agriculture and Industry Development Import and Export Co., Ltd., the company unlawfully sought deposits from members of the public for its business operations in violation of the relevant laws and regulations.

Thousands of depositors stormed the company’s office in Xaythany district demanding to withdraw their money after the enterprise failed to return their money as promised.

Head of the task force committee’s Secretariat, Dr. Akhom Praseuth, said yesterday that most of the company’s tangible assets had been traced and seized.

Authorities are now trying to determine what actually happened to depositors’ money and what it was spent on. “It is believed that a certain amount of money was spent but we have not found accounts or evidence of this,” said Dr. Akhom, who is also Director General of the Financial Institute Management Department of the Bank of the Lao PDR.

“We are speeding up the search.”

The company’s overall assets cannot be calculated while there is no record of expenditure, he added.

Some of the products made by the company, which produces a number of agricultural goods, have been sold and the money has been put into a fund for payment to the victimized depositors.

Dr. Akhom said no disbursements have been made because investigations and the search for the remaining assets, including expenditure, is still ongoing.

The task force committee reiterated that it would oversee the company’s most urgent operations during this transition period and that neither the committee nor the government intended to take over the company.

Lured by the promise of high interest rates, as many as 50,000 people deposited money with the company, Ms. Souknaly told Vientiane Times prior to her arrest.

But the number of depositors dropped to just over 30,000 after the problem came to light and more and more people wanted to withdraw their money after the company failed to pay them the promised high interest rate and even stopped paying out any money to depositors.

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