Gold scam victims’ painful loss
Two investors left in the lurch as gold buy-back scheme goes wrong and investment company director is missing
Their dreams are shattered and they are feeling deep pain.
Mr Chandran Nair, 63, and another man, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chye, have lost huge sums in gold buy-back investment schemes.
Mr Chye, 41, put his loss at $2.2 million while Mr Nair said he lost $550,000 of his life savings.
They are unable to contact the man behind the scheme.
These losses have caused a painful change of lifestyle for Mr Chye and a stark realisation for Mr Nair that all the decades of sacrifice to build up his nest egg has come to naught.
Here are their stories.
FROM BUSINESSMAN TO JUICE SELLER
Up till two years ago, Mr Chye, a former IT businessman, thought nothing of splurging whenever he dined out.
He ate at top restaurants where each meal easily cost him a "three-figure sum", he said.
But after sinking a whopping $2.2 million into a gold buy-back investment scheme with Singapore-registered Valiant Capital in 2013, he is now forced to manage a fruit juice stall because it promised a more stable income, he told The New Paper (TNP) on Monday.
Investors like Mr Chye are now on shaky ground because one of the company's directors who supposedly called the shots, Mr Simon Goh Chee Kin, has gone missing. (See report below.)
Valiant Capital allegedly stopped paying monthly dividends to its investors after several months, allegedly citing slow business.
Said Mr Chye, a father of two young boys: "It's not only my money. Some of it belonged to my relatives and friends. It's all hard-earned money. It affects us a lot and our lifestyle has changed."
Mr Chye spends an average of 16 hours a day at his fruit juice stall "just to make a few thousand dollars a month''.
Although Mr Goh has stopped paying monthly dividends to Mr Chye, the latter continues to pay his backers a total of around $8,000 each month. The money comes partly from his earnings and partly from his savings.
Mr Chye said: "I had promised them the 2 per cent, so I will honour it even when it's a painful commitment for me.
"They (relatives and friends) were obviously frustrated with me when all this happened. They didn't say anything bad to me, but their unhappy faces said it all."
Still, he considers himself lucky to have a stable income despite earning "several times more" previously.
Said Mr Chye: The days of eating abalone at Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant or Crystal Jade are over. It's all simple meals at coffee shops now. And I have not gone for a holiday in the last year."
LIFE SAVINGS GONE
That the loss of $550,000 has hit Mr Nair badly is an understatement.
Said Mr Nair: "I inherited so much stress trying to recover what belongs to me. There were frequent misunderstandings with my wife and eldest daughter."
The retired Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) warrant officer, who previously drew a monthly salary of about $6,000, now works in the security industry.
With a monthly salary of $1,400, Mr Nair's financial situation has yet to improve.
Mr Nair, who has three daughters aged 14 to 29, said: "For 36 years, all I did was to save money.
"I didn't go drinking or take my family to lavish Indian restaurants. I could save (money) because my uniform, meals and transport were provided for by the SAF."
His misery is compounded by the fact that he lost money not once but twice to the same buy-back scheme.
Mr Nair first met Mr Goh in 2010 when the latter was a relations executive with Genneva Gold, now a defunct gold trading company that was raided by the authorities in 2012.
In Jan 27, 2010, Mr Goh allegedly sold a 1kg gold bar to Mr Nair for about $60,000.
In the next two years, to get more on his dividends, Mr Nair put into Genneva Gold a total of $374,000 or 11kg of gold.
When Genneva Gold was shut down, Mr Goh started Valiant Capital in 2013.
Said Mr Nair: "Simon said he could help recover our lost investments if we invested in Valiant Capital."
Mr Nair "pumped" a further $79,000 with Mr Goh, who became a director of Valiant Capital.
TNP understands Mr Nair had also lent Mr Goh a substantial amount of money throughout the years, according to documents signed by Mr Goh and his wife.
From July 2013 and for the next 11 months, Mr Nair received $1,500 a month.
But in July 2014, the payments stopped.
To date, attempts to recover Mr Nair's money and the gold, which had been surrendered to Valiant Capital for safe-keeping and a bigger monthly dividend, have all failed.
A cheque of $79,000 issued to Mr Nair by Valiant Capital's co-director Alvin Wee bounced in December 2014.
Mr Nair and 20 other investors have started a chat group to keep everyone abreast of the situation and of Mr Goh's possible whereabouts.
Said Mr Nair: "As a father, it's embarrassing that I have not bought any birthday presents for my daughters for the last three years.
"As a family, we now shop less and we don't celebrate any festivities. Sadly, my plan to reward the family with a car has to be put on hold."
It's not only my money. Some of it belonged to my relatives and friends. It's all hard-earned money.
- Mr Chye, who said he lost $2.2 million
'I'm also a victim'
More investors could be affected by the latest developments at Valiant Capital.
A Straits Times (ST) report on Oct 21 suggested that there were six investors who told ST they had invested more than $2.5 million.
Mr Alvin Wee, one of two directors of the company, told The New Paper (TNP) on Monday that the company had fewer than 100 investors.
Said Mr Wee: "Of course everybody is asking for their money (back). They're also asking 'where is Simon'?"
Mr Wee said he was unaware of Mr Simon Goh Chee Kin's whereabouts.
Mr Goh is the other director at Valiant Capital. Mr Wee last spoke to Mr Goh, a former colleague at Genneva Gold, in June this year.
Mr Wee is alleging he is also a victim after investing about $800,000 in Valiant Capital using funds belonging to family members and friends.
Said Mr Wee, 38: "I didn't want to leave the company (because) all my close friends, god parents and ex-colleagues have money invested in the company."
Being the only person in the Singapore office, Mr Wee said he faced the brunt of complaints and abuse by clients who demanded to be given cheques at the Valiant Capital's office in Orchard Towers.
Some of the clients had told TNP that cheques issued by Mr Wee had bounced.
Added Mr Wee: "Before I signed the cheques, I did counter-check with him (Mr Goh) whether he is able to fulfil his promises to customers. He said 'no problem' because he would arrange something from China."
But a July 3 report in Shanghai Morning Post said that about 300 Chinese investors, mostly senior citizens, were left stranded after investing an estimated 100 million yuan (S$22 million) with Valiant Capital's Shanghai office and were unable to contact Mr Goh.
A Singaporean investor, Mr Chye, 44, also a victim, told TNP he was surprised that there were problems in Shanghai.
In 2014, he had spent two months in Shanghai studying Mr Goh's operations.
Said Mr Chye: "The business there was good. Every investor came with cash. After a while, I realised we're not being paid in Singapore.
"Simon said it was because he still needed to fund the operations in Shanghai."
Investors should protect themselves
Valiant Capital is neither licensed nor regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said an MAS spokesman in an e-mail reply on Tuesday.
Investors can take steps to protect themselves by checking the Financial Institutions Directory at the MAS website for a list of financial institutions regulated by MAS and the regulated activities they are authorised to provide.
They should also consult the MAS Investor Alert List.
A MAS spokesman said: "MAS strongly encourages consumers seeking investments to deal only with entities regulated by MAS, so that they will be protected by the laws administered by MAS."
In 2012, investigations revealed that more than 10,000 investors had lost their money to Genneva Gold.
A year later, Gold Guarantee was in the news when its founder Lee Song Teck fled with investors' money.
In February this year, more than 260 investors had visited the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) after losing about $35 million to Suisse International, Today online reported.
The MAS spokesman added: "Regardless of whether an entity is regulated by MAS, it is an offence to operate a fraudulent or deceptive business.
"If investors suspect that there may be some criminal wrongdoing or fraud, they may wish to report the matter to the CAD, the principal white-collar crime investigation agency in Singapore."
Last month, MAS announced enhanced regulatory safeguards to protect investors' interests, which include precious metals buy-back arrangements.