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Investigation underway over Asianface scandal

Police are investigating Asianface Company Ltd to locate where millions of US dollars have been channelled and what the money was used for after it was unlawfully mobilised from investors.

“ We are also investigating to identify how many people are connected with the business,” one of the Vientiane police officers in charge of the investigation told Vient iane Times on Tuesday.

Owner of the company, Mr Hout Sovanh, has been in police custody since March 28 over the company's business scandal.

Established in June 2015 as a consultant firm, the company illegally lured deposits from investors to operate a real estate business by offering an extremely high return of nine percent per month.

It stopped paying interest to investors in September last year and pledged to return money to those wanting to withdraw their deposits on January 15, 2017 but the money was not returned as promised.

Consequently, authorities stepped in resulting in the signing of an agreement between the company and investors on January 18, 2017 in which the company committed to return their money by March 27, 2017.

A crowd of depositors stormed the company's office on the date in Phontongchommany village, Chanthabouly district, Vientiane hoping to receive their money, but again the company did not return the money further angering many people.

Mr Hout was put in police custody as authorities feared fierce confrontation between the Cambodian businessman and his angered financial backers.The Vientiane police officer said the investigation would also identify the company's properties and calculate if they were sufficient to cover the depositors' money.

“So far, we have ascertained that the company has invested and purchased some properties including land. But we need to inspect whose names the land titles were issued in,” the police officer, who asked not to be named, said.

More than 10,000 people have deposited over US$12 million with the company, representatives of the depositors told Vientiane Times , citing a report by the company. One of the representatives, Mr Kongkham Singmeuangkham, said the company had given no reason why it had not returned the money.

He added that when the representatives and Mr Hout met on March 28 at the Chanthabouly district Police Office – the day the Cambodian businessman was placed in police custody, Mr Hout sidestepped answering specific questions as to why the company had not returned the money.

Through an interpreter, Mr Hout instead explained the company's plans including the development of a market, which the representatives interpreted as trying to convince people to continue depositing money with the company.

“But most people want to withdraw their money,” he said, adding that at least more than 6,000 people previously registered to withdraw their money and he believed many more would want to.

There were growing fears among the representatives that the deposited money had been transferred overseas, Mr Kongkham said, who deposited US$5,800.

The company's office is left empty without any employees, but depositors continue to keep vigil over the office day after day hoping to hear news on how the issue is progressing.

An official of the Cambodian Embassy to Laos said Mr Hout had pledged he would not seek to leave Laos, but would remain to find ways to resolve the issue. Lao officials had already impounded Mr Hout's passport to prevent him from leaving the country, the Embassy's official said.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update April 6, 2017)

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