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By Marc Neil-Jones

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, April 27) – Mackenzie Tari Obed, the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit has urged people to be cautious with investing in a Canadian Diamond Trading scheme currently being heavily promoted in Port Vila.

The financial scheme promises huge returns of US$3,000 plus a diamond valued at US$2,500 based on a US$100 or US$500 investment in the scheme.

He advised, "This scheme is getting people hooked and I am worried over its promises and the fact that it looks like a pyramid selling scheme." However, the scheme is an obvious revolving pyramid selling scheme and Daily Post alerted the Financial Services Commission and Financial Intelligence Unit who are investigating the scheme which is being promoted by a local Ambrym man called Johnny Botleng and a foreigner called Mark Bishop.

The scheme is a cleverly disguised pyramid selling scheme with only four levels and people enter the scheme properly with a deposit of US$500 which gets them in at the level of ‘Diamond Miner’. They then have to promote the scheme to others who sign on and pay their money through the internet until 8 diamond ‘miners’ have been recruited. When this happens they move up to the next level of a ‘diamond cutter’ and a further 8 ‘miners need to be recruited until they can move up to the third level which is a diamond ‘polisher’ and then another 8 miners have to be recruited until the person reaches the top of the pyramid as a ‘diamond collector’. Only then does that person get the promise of US$3,000 in fees plus a diamond worth US$2,500.

Once he or she has received this they start again at the bottom of the pyramid. The scheme of ‘follow the leader’ promises potential income of US$36,000 a year plus 12 diamonds worth US$30,000 if the person has a monthly cycle of success rising to US$156,000 plus 52 diamonds worth US$130,000 if the cycle is successful on a weekly basis and the amazing promise of a return of US$1, 095,000 plus 365 diamonds worth US$912,500. However, concerns have been raised on the internet that this is a ‘pyramid scam’ and people who part with their money may never get anything if the pyramid isn’t completed.

The scheme is being promoted worldwide and is a similar pyramid scheme to another Canadian scam selling emeralds that owes millions to people who invested. If you google "Treasure Traders International", you will find a million posts at a reference website called FactNet about this Treasure Traders, who were "marketing" emeralds.

Canadian Staff Sergeant Bill Ralstin says it’s easy to spot a pyramid. He says if you make more money from recruiting other people to join than from the sale of a product then it’s a pyramid. "If their emphasis seems to be totally on recruiting and how big and wonderful this program is going to become through recruiting and you’re going to be rewarded by your recruiting then it’s a pyramid", says the Commercial Crime detective. The Financial Intelligence Unit has cautioned anyone considering investing in this scheme to be very careful as many people are thought to have taken up the offer of free diamonds and US$3,000 cash for just a US$500 investment.

Tari Obed advised, "If this is a legitimate investment scheme it must be properly registered with the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission and should have a license to operate here. It must be properly advertised through the media but not through just passing around leaflets."

He warned, "the Vanuatu Financial Intelligence Unit is not convinced with this program including the web site advised by Mark Bishop. In this regard the public must be very cautious because professional scams are very cunning in convincing people."

May 1, 2006

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