If you’ve been in the Singapore MLM industry, defunct company Sunshine Empire should not be unfamiliar to you. Sunshine Empire is set up in 2006, as a Multi-level marketing (MLM) company based in Singapore, led by its charismatic and motivational leader James Phang Wah.
In year 2008, the ‘MLM’ company is being investigated by The Singapore Police, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for alleged Ponzi Scheme. The company has its account frozen, with millions of dollars in it. At that time, the company is also placed under Monetary Authority of Singapore’s ‘investor alert list’.
Investigation continued for over a year, and even though Sunshine Empire has ‘closed down’, it continued to operate under different divisions with the same leaders and management. Office remained, and their ‘business’ carry on as usual.
In early 2009, further investigation of Sunshine Empire had been revealed, and company founder and his partners were all brought to court. This year, July 2010, almost after 2 years in investigation, the 3 leaders, James Phang Wah, his wife, and his right-hand man, Jackie Hoo, were found guilty of perpetuating fraud and criminal breach of trust, and falsification of accounts.
Overall, Sunshine Empire, a disguised MLM company, operated a Ponzi Scheme which amassed up to 189 million dollars in funds in a year. Thousands of investors (victims) in Singapore and throughout Asia, have lost money in this scheme.
On 30th July 2010, the Sunshine Empire trio behind the scheme are given jail sentences, with leader James Phang imprisoned for 9 years and fined S$60,000.
That’s the brief facts of the Sunshine Empire story. Of course, other than just facts, there are a lot of opinions you can find, in many Singapore’s forums, one which has most active discussion is on Hardwarezone.
Now, the case is coming to an end. The scam artists have been sentenced to jail and fined. Regardless of the sentences, I’ve no objection against any punishment, as I also see it as a good sign to deter any more MLM scam artists planting their seeds here.
But what’s next? I feel sorry for the victims, but what can the victims do?
They are left with only 2 choices.
1. Affirm that MLM is a scam, and make a vow to never participate in any MLM anymore, and tell all friends not to join MLM.
2. Take time to find out the difference between a Ponzi Scheme and a Legitimate MLM Model, and learn how to evaluate a legitimate MLM business.
If Option 1 is chosen, I don’t blame you too. It’s really pain to lose thousands of dollars and I can say the experience is somehow ‘unforgettable’ too. It’s kind of having a phobia of participating in any activity which requires money now
If Option 2 is chosen, then I would say that you are street-smart, someones who does proper evaluation. Because if you take time out to find out the difference between a Ponzi Scheme and a legitimate MLM model, you’ll know whats wrong with Sunshine Empire and other Successful and legitimate MLM companies out there.
By educating yourself, you know what’s legal and illegal. Now Sunshine Empire is dead. We don’t know if there are new MLM scam artists drawing out new plans to con people! We can’t prevent that. What we can do is to educate ourselves, to prevent us, and our friends from falling into those scam artists’ traps.
After you have differentiated a Ponzi Scheme and a MLM company, next to learn is how to evaluate a MLM business. 97% of the MLM presentations out there are hyped-up seminars which are massively filled with Large income claims, chest-beating claims “We are the Best Company, We pay out the most”, enticing prospects with big cars and holiday bonuses…etc. Alright, I think you may even seen these tactics more than me.
This is not the way to evaluate an MLM business. Regarding this topic of evaluating MLM companies, I will touch it on another article.
MLM as an industry, like any other industries in Singapore, be it insurance, real estate, health care, education, has its good and its bad. However, I can say that I see more good than bad in this industry for most people.
If giving up totally on MLM is your choice, I won’t blame you too, but I won’t recommend it as the best solution. A person is street-smart because he stood up from where he fell, learn from mistakes, and go forward.
If a street smart fails to bake a cheese cake, he would look back at what went wrong with his recipe or his ingredients, make some adjustments, and try to bake again. He won’t say that cheese cake is impossible to bake.
If a street smart fails his high school exam, he would look back at his mistakes, do corrections, study harder, and take his exam again. He won’t say that the school is cheating his money by setting difficult examination papers and fail him.
If a street smart injured his arm while doing weight lifting in the Olympics, he would consult his coach if he did anything wrong that results in the injury. His coach will guide him accordingly, so that he will carry the weights right, and even carry heavier ones too. He won’t shout that the Olympics is a arm-breaking scheme which introduce people to carry weights (heavier than their own weight!) and then break their own arm. No!
I think you have understood the traits of a street smart, and may name a few more examples.
In summary, I believe that the Sunshine Empire scam case is one that has seriously tarnish the reputation of the MLM industry of Singapore. However, it is hugely up to us, in the aftermath of this case (when all the Sunshine Empire leaders have been convicted), to make a wise decision:
Stood up again and be a Street Smart, or Get buried and handicapped by past experiences.
So what’s your decision? Share your views with me 🙂 *No Spamming Please