‘Datuk’ cons Penangites of RM6mil

GEORGE TOWN: In February last year, Tay Ooi Hong met an impressive 25-year-old, who claimed to be a Datuk with a PhD and have a royal title from Bali. He was convinced to put money into the man’s investment scheme and recruit 107 others.

The return for the investors started modestly but grew considerably after a few months.

Earlier this year, the mastermind vanished and his company’s phone lines went dead.

Now Tay, 34, and the other investors he roped in claim they have lost RM6mil after being duped by the man with the supposed royal title of Puri Agung Negara Djembrana.

Negara is the tiny capital of Djembrana, a mountainous province in Bali.

With their life savings gone, Tay and 20 investors went to Penang Gerakan for help after lodging police reports.

At a press conference yesterday, Tay said he had first done his research and found that the company was legitimately registered and the mastermind listed as the managing director.

“The web page said it was appointed to do business in Malaysia by a parent company from New Zealand,” Tay said, adding that he invested RM100,000 before being made a recruiter in Penang.

He estimated that more than 500 people in the state were tricked and seven recruiters were pulled in.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong said the police had been given a wealth of information to track down the man.

“At one point, Tay brought a lot of cash to the man and became nervous.

“To win his trust, the man offered his MyKad for Tay to photograph.

“The MyKad showed him to have been born in Penang, with his registered address in Paya Terubong,” Oh said.

The scam, he said, offered small returns in the beginning but swelled to 30% to 40% from the fourth month onwards.

“This is a common model. When victims see a few hundred ringgit come back to them in the beginning, they are motivated and drag in their friends and families,” he said.

Retiree Cheang Teck Heng, 57, said he withdrew RM129,000 from his Employees Provident Fund for the scheme.

“I was blinded by the high returns. What’s worse, my wife doesn’t know I have lost all my money,” said Cheang, who was a factory production supervisor.

Hawker Geoh Joo Hock, 57, convinced his brothers and sisters to invest RM43,000 each.

“I was promised a return of RM1,520 every month,” said Geoh who attended the press conference with his siblings.

Penang Commercial Crimes Investigation Department chief Asst Comm Abdul Ghani Ahmad confirmed that the reports were lodged and police were investigating the case.