‘Directors’ claim innocence in seaweed investment scam

Francis Leung learnt an expensive lesson – joining an investment company with the title of a shareholder or director will not prevent him from falling prey to financial scams.

Leung and the other 24 “directors” appointed by master conman Choi Kok Peng, are now suffering the consequences of being chased after by the investors after Choi looted off their investments amounting to RM200 million and disappeared.

According to Leung, Choi approached him in November 2007 with a seaweed investments plan. The seaweed farm based in Sempurna, Sabah guarantees 25% monthly returns with a minimal investment of RM3,300.

Choi, who was the director of Fresh Palms Holdings (S) Sdn Bhd and Ak United Sdn Bhd, even convinced Leung that forking out RM16,500 in 5 lots of seaweed would qualify him to be the director of a company owned by himself.

“He said under the company structure, we would have to open a subsidiary company under our names to recruit investors,” Leung claimed.

Leung was also told that the investment’s dividends would be split between the directors and the parent company. The ratio of the dividends promised are 30 percent for the ‘directors’ and 70%  for the parent company, namely Choi who was appointed as the beneficiary.

It did not take a long time for Fresh Palms to start showing signs of faltering as the promised 25 percent returns were replaced with shares of an American company in August 2008.

Choi eventually seized the operations of the Sabah seaweed farms and went on hiding beginning December 16, 2009.

The 25 directors who had established their own companies and the ‘downline’ investors were then forced to pick up the mess.

In the past 11 months, they claimed they were directed with constant obloquy, allegations and harassments from more than 1000 investors all over the country.

About 11 of the “directors” today sought help from MCA Petaling Jaya Public Complaint Bureau to clarify the matter.

“We are not the masterminds, we too are suffering great loss from this,” Leung claimed, adding that two of the 25 directors have been declared bankrupt by banks.

“Choi used our names to register companies, borrow money and rent shops. After he went into hiding, some of us are constantly chased by loansharks,” he added.

When asked why they  allowed Choi to use their names in registrations, the directors attributed it to mutual trust as ‘Fresh Palms and the subsidiary were on the same boat’.

Meanwhile, Selangor complaint bureau chief Theng Book called on the public to help  nab the conman.

He added that he will refer the case to Deputy Finance Minister Donald Lim Siang Cai with hopes of freezing the conman’s account.