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October 26, 2009

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Massive Ponzi scheme reveals web of deceit

AN alleged Ponzi scheme based in a southwestern county with 150,000 members tried to gain official credence by linking the scheme with local government, according to China Central Television.

Each of the investors in Mengzi County, Yunnan Province, was promised returns of tens of millions of yuan for their original 3,800 yuan (US$571) investment, CCTV reported on Saturday.

"An investment of 3,800 yuan will lead to returns of 1,700 yuan for your daily expenses," said a video introduced by Yang Xia.

"More cash returns are expected for each guest you invite to join the scheme and each member is allowed to recruit only three more to join the project," Yang added.

She said a member at the top of the pyramid with 600 people below him could leave the game and be rewarded with more than a million yuan every month, according to CCTV.

Yang linked the "human resources project" with the central government's "go west" strategy.

Some members of the scheme interviewed on CCTV denied it was a pyramid sales scheme but said it was part of a central government-backed project that was still listed as classified.

Liu Yi, a member who introduced an undercover CCTV reporter to the scheme, said the government building in Mengzi contained a code.

"The building's total of 600 windows implies that a member with 600 followers could leave the game and win 1 million yuan a month," said Liu.

Liu and some other members said the project had recruited about 150,000 members and said many of them discussed it every day at the plaza in front of the Mengzi government building.

All of them denied it was a Ponzi scheme but emphasized it was a chance for brave people.

"No one would put limits on your daily quota or force you to swindle more to join the game," they said.

"But your daily expenses and accommodation will be covered by the organization if you join and each member of the project enjoys free medical treatment and childbirth," they added.


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