It is rather ironic to see so many Guyanese embarking on an apparent campaign by turning up to protest publicly in an effort to seek the release from Police custody of the couple fingered in the alleged ACFI Ponzi scheme; they reside on the East Coast of Demerara.
And those Guyanese protesters were protesting although hundreds of millions of dollars owned by their fellow Guyanese are at stake, and possibly at risk of not ever being recovered.
Some 57 persons have made reports to the Police, with claims amounting to over $31.5 million in investments, but further reports seem to indicate that approximately 17,000 Guyanese have invested a whopping US$20 million in this company.
This, therefore, is no ordinary case, and all efforts must be made to ensure that Guyanese people are protected against such scams; and those responsible must be brought to justice and made to face the full force of the law.
Ongoing investigations have revealed that the accused couple are apparently deliberately giving erroneous information regarding the name of the overseas company under which they claim to have been operating. This is sufficient justification to prevent them from leaving Guyana until there is verifiable information regarding the whereabouts of the funds, and those funds are returned to their rightful owners.
It was reported that at the time of the arrest, the Cuban national implicated in the scheme, Yuri Garcia Dominguez, told Police the name of the overseas umbrella company under which they were operating was “FK Choice”, and that it was located in Belize.
As Police and other members of the Government-appointed investigating team proceeded to conduct research into that company bearing the name “FK Choice”, it was revealed that no such company existed in Belize, as claimed by Mr. Dominguez, nor does such a company exist elsewhere in the region or internationally.
Specifically, information obtained from reliable counterparts in Belize confirmed that no company bearing the name “FK Choice” was registered with the local or international Registry of Companies in that jurisdiction, as claimed by Mr. Dominguez, who is married to a Guyanese, Ateeka Ishmael.
However, cognisant that local investigations were revealing his falsehood, and further anticipating that this information would become public, Mr. Dominguez proceeded to send out a press release indicating the name of the overseas company was instead “FX Choice”, a name which obviously bears close similarity to “FK Choice”, but for the letter “K”.
The apparent conclusion, therefore, is that when Mr. Dominguez began to realise that research would reveal that no such company with the name “FK Choice” exists, he proceeded on a misleading exercise to change the name to “FX Choice”.
The previous APNU/AFC Government had been made aware of the allegations, but had embarrassingly not taken any action before demitting office. The view is that, had they moved decisively, it is highly unlikely the situation would have escalated to the point where thousands of citizens are ensnared.
What became even more appalling was former Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, denying that he was by letter alerted about the illegal scheme, and one of the operators having applied to become a Guyanese citizen.
In a letter dated October 24, 2019 – now widely circulated – legal counsel for the Guyana Securities Council informed Mr. Felix about the scam, but he denied ever receiving that letter, only to be refuted when the letter was made public. There is therefore no doubt regarding why Mr. Felix has remained silent since the letter surfaced with a signature of receipt from someone at the Ministry.
Among other things, the letter alerted Felix about two pyramid-like investment schemes, giving names of the two persons in the scam, their specific addresses on the East Coast Demerara, and the names of the companies being used. Sadly, absolutely nothing was done with the information submitted; but thankfully, the new Government, having received complaints from members of the public, convened a high level multi-agency investigating team involving the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Commissioner of Police, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Head of the Guyana Security Council.
One dictionary defines a Ponzi scheme as “a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors”.
At this stage, there clearly is hardly any hope of “quick returns” on the investments made, and one can only hope that at least there will be a quick return of the principal sums paid by thousands of Guyanese.
Rest assured there likely would be many other similar attempts to defraud the Guyanese public; the people of Guyana should therefore not let their guard down again. Thankfully, with a more alert and proactive Government in place, there is good reason for greater hope that the people of Guyana would not fall prey to the lure of similar scams in the future!