Ponzi Schemes Target BVI Faith-Based Community

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Allegations of Ponzi and pyramid schemes operating here in the British Virgin Islands sent BVI Finance into heightened public education mode to rid the BVI of such schemes. The most prominent of the efforts materialised in the form of a BVI Finance – Money Matters E-Forum held on 23 August on the internet. 

The panel included various financial experts and in her explanation of why such schemes are given momentum CEO of BVI Finance, Elise Donovan used the example of schemers that target religious persons and craft their pitch to convincingly sound faith-based. 

This scam message – Donovan explained – is, unfortunately, appealing to many persons, “I think we are very much a faith-based community and we believe in receiving our blessings… and blessing by definition is receiving favour and a gift from God…It’s not the same as for example, if you are in the church and sowing a seed… that if you sow a seed you are going to reap blessings, multiply… it’s not the same, but because we are using the same terminology that we are using in church, whether it is a blessing loom or a blessing circle, things are very familiar to us,” the BVI Finance CEO said. 

During the panel discussion Broderick Penn, the Director of Enforcement at the BVI Financial Services Commission, debunked the belief that some may have that by participating in these quick money offerings they are investing. He explained, “You are not an investor if you are putting your money into a pyramid scheme.” 

Clarence Faulkner Founder and Managing Director of Pension Management Interactive, INC pointed out that ordinary hard-working individuals are usually targeted for these schemes: “With these types of structures individuals are using their salaries any form of income to put into something hoping to receive something,” Faulkner explained. 

The same point on the types of people targeted by such schemes was elaborated on by Dwayne Thomas the Deputy Director of BVI Financial Investigation Agency as he stated that many of the investors never receive anything in return. “These types of persons who are putting their money into these types of schemes I would have to consider them overly risky; because there is nothing being given showing that they have invested anything. Your money is held by the scheme perpetrator and that person then passes that money to persons at the top level of the scheme.” 

“Monies come in but it trickles up, as more persons come in below those persons, those persons are more likely to lose their funds unless they can get more persons to come in under themselves,” Thomas added. 

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