By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 13 November 2007 1813 hrs
SINGAPORE: The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has launched investigations into multi-level marketing (MLM) firm, Sunshine Empire.
The probe by the white collar crime buster comes just over a month after the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) placed the firm on an investor-alert list which zooms in on those who may be conducting activities regulated by the MAS without authority.
Sunshine was also put on a similar list by Malaysian authorities a few months ago.
MLM firms, which are legal in Singapore, typically invite people to pay cash for the right to market goods to other people. They also get cash for recruiting other MLM marketeers.
Sunshine has been in the news on concerns over its business practices.
It is supposed to be doing networking marketing but its mode of operation appears more like a financial investment scheme for which it is not licensed.
Sunshine is believed to have a few thousand members.
When Channel NewsAsia news team visited Sunshine's headquarters at Toa Payoh Hub, members were seen entering the premises but they refused to comment.
Channel NewsAsia news team were not allowed into the premises. But looking through the glass door, it seemed it was still very much business as usual.
Large crowds of people were seen gathered around small desks discussing about marketing possibilities.
Eventually, two members emerged from the building, and they agreed to speak to Channel NewsAsia.
"We have been following the company for almost one year and all the updates are there. So we understand the company fully so we are not worried about anything," said one of the members.
"So far, we haven't complained, because every month we get money back. So, we've been all right," said another.
"You've been a member for five months, how much have you put in?" asked Channel NewsAsia.
"About $12,000," the member said.
"How much have you gotten back?"
"Including this month, it's about $7,000," answered the member.
The Commercial Affairs Department advises those who have placed money with Sunshine Empire to wait for further updates by the CAD as more information will be released in due course.
In the meantime, Sunshine members may be requested to come forward to help with investigations, says CAD.
The man behind Sunshine is Mr James Phang, 48, the founder, director and international president of Empire Group Alliance, a group spanning several Asian countries.
Sunshine is part of the group, but Mr Phang does not own it.
Sunshine also operates in Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, and has 50,000 merchants. - CNA/ir