Alert: Sunshine Empire

The Electric New Paper :

WHAT WATER THEME PARK PROJECTS?
Blacklisted S'pore MLM company unveils lavish M'sian developments. But M'sian authorities say...
THEIR presentation was certainly designed to impress and strike awe.
By Hedy Khoo
29 October 2007

THEIR presentation was certainly designed to impress and strike awe.

With just $12,000, you stand to make many times more by being part of a 'global' company that has stakes in many high-profile projects in the region.

These include a trading portal that is supposedly better than eBay, as well as majestic theme parks in Malacca and Sabah that boast floating villas and underwater hotel rooms.

To prove the point to about 100 people who attended Sunshine Empire's talk last week, a slide show titled Anything Is Possible was shown.

Without any explanation, the audience was shown several pictures, including one of an overcrowded bus in India with some passengers on the roof and others with legs dangling out of the windows.

Another photo showed square watermelons from Japan.

WOULD YOU BELIEVE?

The audience was told: 'To believe or not to believe is up to you.'

Sunshine Empire, a multi-level marketing (MLM) firm, is now on the radar of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Though MLM companies are legal here, MAS has included the firm on its list of unauthorised companies that investors should avoid.

The Securities Commission in Malaysia has also listed Sunshine Empire on its investor-alert list. It advised the public not to make any investment with companies that are not licensed or approved by it.

The commission's website noted: 'Offers often come in the guise of seemingly attractive investment opportunities or schemes and may also be camouflaged as direct-selling or business opportunities.'

In Singapore, a visit to Sunshine Empire's office in Toa Payoh Hub saw several people there holding stacks of cash, presumably to pay for their investment.

One man had a thick stack of Indonesian rupiah.

Earlier, they had been given a brief overview of 'the Empire', as it is called, detailing its ventures in a range of businesses from telecommunications to health to property.

A representative showed various slides of the company's regional projects, including two impressive marine theme park developments in Malacca and Sabah.

Graphics of the park in Malacca showed an intricate network of floating villas and structures on the water which formed the shape of a lion's head. The park also has an adjoining condominium project.

Artists' impressions of the park in Sabah, called The Magic Kingdom, showed a lavish underwater hotel.

An aerial view showed a network of structures in the water which took the shape of an lobster. These structures are purportedly underwater hotel rooms.

'You can open the curtains to your room and see your friends swimming outside,' the representative said.

However, the Malaysian authorities appeared to be unaware of the projects.

When contacted by The New Paper on Sunday, the press secretary to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah, MrFrancis Au Chee Thong, said he had not heard about the Empire's plan to build a water theme park in Sabah.

Mr Au said: 'To our Ministry's knowledge, we have no information relating to a water theme park project.

'And, at this point, there is no such project that is under construction or in progress in Sabah at the moment.'

As for the project in Malacca, Datuk Zaini Md Nor, the mayor of Malacca City Council, told The New Paper on Sunday that the council had indeed received an application in August for approval of a piece of 0.87-ha land (slightly larger than a football field).

The land, located at Pekan Klebang, is listed under developer Empire Property Venture, an affiliate of Sunshine Empire. It is supposed to be for a commercial building.

However, the mayor said the application is still being processed.

On the water theme park, Datuk Zaini said: 'No application has been made to the city Council for the building of a water theme park till today.'

Nevertheless, the Empire's projects were not the only thing that impressed visitors.

Its sprawling office on the seventh floor of Toa Payoh Hub exudes opulence. Crystal chandeliers cascade from the ceiling and the marble walls are trimmed in gold.

The company's logo - a lion's head - is imprinted everywhere, from the carpet to a painting spanning an entire wall of the lobby.

At the reception was a stream of people queuing up to hand money to the receptionists. At least two people in the queue held wads of $50 notes.

The New Paper on Sunday had earlier phoned the number listed on the Sunshine Empire website and the woman who answered said it was not an investment company.

She also asked for the name of our 'introducer' and recommended we attend the 8pm presentation.

YOUNG SPEAKER

At the presentation, the speaker was a young woman who appeared to be in her mid-20s. She was dressed smartly in a black blazer over white business shirt and skirt.

The talk took the tone of a motivational speech with the speaker running up from the back of the room to the stage energetically.

The audience of about 50 (with 50 more in another room) appeared to come from all walks of life. There were housewives in their 50s, 20-somethings in office wear and a handful of teenagers. Among them were several people dressed in black suits.

At regular intervals, the speaker would urge the audience to applaud themselves.

She would ask: 'Who is here to learn how to make more money?'

When some in the audience responded with a show of hands, she exclaimed: 'Give yourselves a big round of applause!'

A 17-year-old student, who wanted to be only known as Tan, told us he was approached by a friend from the company two weeks ago.

He said: 'My friend told me about a part-time job with many benefits and I can start with just $2,000.

'All I need to do is to keep the money in the account for 11 months and every month, the company would pay me a sum.

'At the end of 11 months, I would get my money back, and the company would still pay me a monthly sum. My friend said he earned $1,000 in two weeks.'

In the end, Tan said he did not sign up as he did not want to have his money tied up for 11 months.


The Electric New Paper :
SO WHERE DO SUPER RETURNS COME FROM?
MAS ADVISES INVESTORS NOT TO DEAL WITH BLACKLISTED FIRM
THE returns for this investment is supposedly so 'good' that even famed billionaire investor Warren Buffett can't hold a candle to it.
By Alvin Chiang
29 October 2007

THE returns for this investment is supposedly so 'good' that even famed billionaire investor Warren Buffett can't hold a candle to it.

MrJames Phang, Sunshine Empire's international president, had told The Straits Times in an interview earlier this week that he was a 'legend'.

'I'm very good - better than Warren Buffett,' he declared.

And the company's promises are indeed sweet. It told people at its talk this week that they would get back their $12,000 investment in a year, plus $1,000 every month for the next seven years.

That roughly translates into a 700per cent profit within eight years - compared to Buffet's 21 per cent a year.

That's not all. Each investor would also get $21,000 worth of mobile talktime with Emcall, a local company with links to Sunshine Empire.

The claimed returns are mind-boggling and 20,000 people have signed up here since it was set up last July.

Responding to The New Paper on Sunday's queries, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) advised investors not to deal with Sunshine Empire.

Noting that the company was put on the Investor Alert List last month, a MAS spokesman said 'entities on this list are not authorised by MAS to conduct regulated activities'.

'In making financial investments, we urge all investors to deal only with persons regulated by MAS,' the spokesman said.

'If investors choose to deal with persons not regulated by MAS, they forgo the protection afforded under laws administered by MAS.'

The concern seems to be that Sunshine Empire, unlike other multi-level marketing firms, allows its members to notch up what seem like profits without buying or selling products. This makes its business model look like a pure financial investment scheme.

MrPhang had said that Sunshine Empire is not an 'investment firm'.

If so, then how does it give such super returns to its investors?

A LawNet check showed that MrPhang - described as 'international president' on the company's website - is not listed as a director or shareholder of Sunshine Empire.

It also showed that Sunshine Empire, which changed its name from Niutrend International in January, is a company 'providing entrepreneur and self-improvement courses'.

It has a paid-up capital of $150,000.

On its website, it said it is involved in 'network marketing' and is interested in 'wealth redistribution'.

It also listed offices in Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

There are reasons that MAS raises caution to those who guarantee high returns in a short time. In the US, for instance, some get-rich-quick schemes are known as 'Ponzi' schemes, named after convicted conman Charles Ponzi.

He took US$10million ($14.6m) from 10,000 people in Boston in the early 1920s by guaranteeing investors 50 per cent returns on investments in postal coupons after 45 days.

The website of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) noted: 'A Ponzi scheme is essentially an investment fraud... Instead of investing victims' funds, the operator pays 'dividends' to initial investors using the principle amounts 'invested' by subsequent investors.

'The scheme falls apart when the operator flees with all the proceeds, or when a sufficient number of new investors can't be found to allow the continued payment of 'dividends'.'

In other words, money is taken from Ah Kow to pay initial investor Ah Seng. No goods are bought and sold. Neither is the money collected invested in anything.

Ah Kow's position is riskier than AhSeng's as Ah Kow joined the scheme after Ah Seng. This is because the purpose of recruiting AhKow is to pay Ah Seng, but there is no guarantee someone else can be recruited to pay Ah Kow.

But if everything goes smoothly, no one will complain so long as they are paid on time.

Mr Leong Sze Hian, president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, thinks that such schemes are normally too good to be true.

He said: 'It's very rewarding and lucrative to those who join at the start. But the funds will dry up eventually and the company will close and set up shop elsewhere, or in another country.'

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