Business Times

Pyramid schemes raising their heads again

By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

Following concerns pertaining to pyramid and certain multi-level marketing scams from the public, the Central Bank (CB) has referred three complaints to the Attorney General’s Department for further inquiry, according to CB sources.

“We are awaiting their response,” a CB source told the Business Times. According to some participants, a seminar targeting Internally Displaced Persons and their families from the Vanni was held at a five star hotel in the Colombo suburbs in April by a pyramid promoting firm.

“They promised participants future benefits (money or other privileges) that are primarily earned from additional participants recruited, as well as all new participants who are, in turn, brought in by the existing participants,” participant told the Business Times.

The CB source said that the CB constantly tries to provide a better understanding to the public and law enforcement agencies to assist in identifying prohibited schemes under the Banking Act. “A ‘Prohibited Scheme’ is a structure where the participants are required to contribute or pay money or monetary value, so that the benefits earned by the participants are largely dependent on an increase in the number of participants in the scheme or an increase in the contributions made by the participants in the scheme,” the source said, adding that these schemes require new participants to make an upfront payment to the promoter to join the scheme.

The CB source said these schemes are frequently disguised to appear as schemes engaged in selling goods or services. “The promoters of the schemes require the new participants to invest money by way of purchasing products or services when they sign up, in order to join the scheme; thereafter, they have to bring additional participants into the scheme by selling those products service.

The products or services do not have strong demand in the market and are usually available only through the promoter,” he explained.

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