ARE BANKERS DISGUISED as diplomats buying diplomatic protection for their assets? It is definitely something to think about, don’t you think?
More questions are being raised, and more enforcement offices are joining hands in the UFun investigations that has been underway in Thailand for a while, with links to the Vanuatu licensed Bank, the United Development Bank of Pacific Limited (UDBP) of which Kevin Lai, the Vanuatu Special Envoy, is the President.
What is a pyramid scheme?
A pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model that involves promising participant’s payment or
services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public.
And with over 8,000 victims from the pyramid scheme being Chinese, China has now officially joined the international UFun Club investigation, according to The Nation news service.
Yes! It seems so. In November last year, the Daily Post reported that during a statement marking the first anniversary celebration of the UDBP, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, Mr. Peter Tari, congratulated the UDBP Bank President, Mr. Kevin Lai, and stated that the “UDBP Bank is one of the international banks licensed by the Reserve Bank and I believe the bank has an important role to play towards the advancement of the economy of Vanuatu”. And so with this given timeframe, the UDBP Bank must have registered in Vanuatu sometime in November of 2013.
In February this year, after getting involved in government activities, the Vanuatu Daily Digest reported that a “a writer to this news service (Vanuatu Daily Digest)”, who is a “well-known international investment advisory service” raised a question “along the lines of ‘how is it possible for United Development Bank of the Pacific (UDBP) to deal locally with the Vanuatu Government?’ He says UDBP is an offshore licensed bank in Vanuatu and is therefore prevented by law in dealing with the government.”
From other reports, the UDBP looks to invest well in Vanuatu. But with the latest news surfacing on the
irregularities linked with the UDBP, it remains to be seen if the bank can still fulfil one of its biggest promise; to own the tallest building in Port Vila costing over 3 billion vatu, as reported by the Daily Post earlier this year. Again in February the UDBP Bank President signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vanuatu Minister of Justice, Hon. Alfred Carlot for the financing of an important project amounting to Vt3 billion; a new Hall of Justice in Port Vila, new court buildings in Luganville, Santo, Saratamata in Penama Province, Lakatoro on Malekula and Isangel on Tanna.
The UDBP Bank President, Mr. Kevin Lai, is also the President of the Bangkok based Pacific Educational Medical Foundation (PEMF), which made a donation of 1.2 million vatu towards a school in Ambae, handing the cheque to the school chairman committee Mr. Peter Tari in September 2014. Reportedly, the PEMF also provided assistance in the form of the public toilet at Freswota, the mamas market at Freswota One, and iron roofing for a mamas market at Freswota 5.
Kevin Lai Arrested
This week Thai Police arrested Kevin Lai over allegations of “wrongfully raising funds from 8,000 people in China and four in Thailand”, reported Pol Lt-General Suwira Songmetta, who is the leading investigator into UFun Club, which “faces allegations of running a pyramid scheme”.
The Police Raid
Thai police raided rooms owned by Kevin Lai, the raid followed “a recent discovery by police of UFun Store Co Ltd, an affiliate of UFun, having deposited US$10mil (RM36mil) with UDBP Management (Thailand)”, reported Thai Star Online.
Diplomatic Positions – is it for protection?
Furthermore, Mr. Kevin Lai reportedly became an honourable envoy of Vanuatu since April 2014.Transparency International Vanuatu contacted the Vanuatu Foreign Affairs office to enquire on the position of Mr. Lai, and they confirmed his position as the Permanent Representative of Vanuatu at ESCAP. Also, on the UNESCAP website: www.unescap.org – Mr. Lai’s name appeared to confirm his position as Vanuatu’s representative at UNESCAP.
Interestingly, the Bank President previously held a similar diplomatic post, Mr. Kevin Lai is the same person that…
“held diplomatic status for the Micronesian country of Nauru in 2005 but was discharged from the post in 2011”, Why? Reportedly he “continued misusing his diplomatic immunity for things such as importing luxury cars without paying taxes” reports the Thai Star news service.
On 27 May The Nation news service reported that the recent arrests of “two executives of UDBP Management (Thailand) Co, Malaysian manager Kevin Lai, 49, and Chinese deputy manager Yang Yuan Zhao, 48, the Bank of Thailand probe found that UDBP wasn’t registered as a bank. The company allegedly operated business in the manner of a pyramid scheme.”
The report further stated that transactions “showed that money from China was wired to Thailand before it was sent to Malaysia and then Vanuatu; hence, it could be regarded as a transnational pyramid scheme”, the leading investigator explained that the “Police would treat this UDBP’s alleged pyramid scheme case separately from the UFUN case”.
Lai Paid for Vanuatu Diplomat Salaries
The rooms that were raided were allegedly “used to host members of the UFun management and diplomats from Vanuatu”, the leading investigator continued to report that “Lai paid a salary to Vanuatu diplomats for conditions he did not specify”.
The Thai Star Online reported that after “receiving a notice from police about Lai’s fraudulent activities, the Foreign Ministry refused to accept Vanuatu government’s request to recognise him as a special envoy” the leading investigator explained said.
Who are the Vanuatu diplomats that received salary payments from Mr Lai?
The Thai government was aware of Lai’s fraudulent activities that is why the foreign ministry refused to accept Vanuatu government’s request to recognize him as a special envoy, said the leading investigator.
This is a very concerning issue for Vanuatu. Yes! We are all concerned about this latest news, why do some of Vanuatu’s foreign representatives allegedly have to get involved in this type of activities? But more importantly, were our leaders already aware of their past activities before appointing them to represent Vanuatu.