Public warned to be wary of investment ‘masters’, ‘gurus’

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Illegal schemes: MoF increasing monitoring and enforcement

THE latest financial schemes which were uncovered involved financial and investment advice given by unlicensed operators who claim to be "masters" or "gurus" in the investment world. However, most of these so-called "educational" seminars or talks rarely get approval from relevant ministries.

This was revealed by a senior government officer in the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the Financial Institution Division (FID), Ministry of Finance, yesterday when asked for comments pertaining to illegal financial schemes and also the latest information on the issues brought up during the fourth day of the Legislative Council (LegCo) Meeting.

During the LegCo meeting, the Minister of Finance II, Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim, acknowledged that millions of dollars are reportedly invested in several illegal "financial schemes". The Minister also assured that the MoF will be increasing monitoring and enforcement to ensure that the public refrain from investing in such unscrupulous schemes.

Those who hold educational talks or forums pertaining to investments or finance have to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, said the officer.

"Should it (finance and/or investment talks) be held without the consent of the ministries, the talk or forum will be deemed illegal and the organisers will face legal consequences," he said. "The operators of venues that accommodate unlicensed activities such as this will also be brought forward as accomplices," he added.

"Based on the Public Entertainment Act, Chapter 81, those who wish to hold any activities pertaining to public awareness such as seminars must apply for approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs who in turn will revert to the MoF if such activities are those relating to finance. But some of these investment programmes which are run either by individuals or companies who do not comply with banking regulations imposed by the MoF, will not apply for a licence, hence making it illegal," he said.

As for ongoing investigations, he said there was one case of illegal deposit taking currently under investigation and the case was slated to be heard in April this year. He also mentioned that there was also another investigation under way involving financial schemes but he refrained from elaborating.

On ongoing enforcement, the officer assured that the FIU will continue its vigilance over such schemes. However, the public is advised to practise prudence in selecting investment instruments. "The public must also check with the authorities on products which are offered by non-finance institutions for verification in order not to be duped by unscrupulous schemes," he said.

The MoF will undergo its mutual evaluation of it's money laundering regulatory framework in November this year. According to experts, Brunei Darussalam's regulatory standard in terms of Money Laundering has yet to be tested and this was also confirmed by the senior officer.

"Our Money Laundering Act and other regulatory standards will be tested to its fullest in April this year when a case involving illegal deposit taking is slated to be heard. This will point out our weaknesses and our strengths in maintaining a healthy financial system," he said.

The Brunei Times