Tech in Solomon Islands : One Link Boss Jailed

 One Link Pacifica’s (OLP) Managing Director Charles Dora has been sentenced to two years in prison on Monday for operating money investment scheme without a bank’s license from July 2019 to March 2020 in the Solomon Islands .

Dora was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to one count of operating unlicensed banking business, a charge laid under the Financial Institution Act (FIA).

In his sentencing remarks, Principal Magistrate Felix Hollison said the circumstances of this case confirmed that the defendant fraudulently and unfairly obtained monies from the participants or members of the scheme under the guise of investment for the purposes of earning a higher financial reward.

“This turned out to be an outright deception,” Mr Hollison said.

He added that the defendant had taken advantage of the financial situation in the country to deceive and fraudulently fool people to part with their monies, exacerbated by the cargo-cult mentality normally promoted and perpetuated by the “quick get rich money schemes”.

The court had heard that over the period of nine months from 4 July 2019 to 30 March 3030, the total sum of $56, 440,475 ($56m) was deceitfully obtained by Dora and only $121, 791.20 was recovered.

Mr Hollison said the money recovered from Dora is very small compared to the $56 million which is unaccounted for and its trail is now a mystery.

“The victims of One Link Pacifica are at liberty to seek independent legal advice as to whether or not they can recover their lost properties through a civil suit against the defendant in the High Court.”

“If a person wishes to run a banking business, the FIA 1998 requires that it must be a body corporate, and compliance with the processes and requirements under section 5 of the Act and other relevant laws such as the Companies Act 2009 and so forth are mandatory.

“This present case is a regulatory offence where a legal entity (financial institution) can only operate a banking business if it has met all the legal prerequisites and has been issued with the relevant licence in accordance with section 5 of the FIA 1998 by the rightful authority which in this case, the CBSI.

“The FIA 1998 is the statutory regime in this jurisdiction that governs the operations of financial institutions and the banking business.

Mr Hollison added that the long title of the Act clearly states that “it provides for the regulation of the business of banking; and for the licensing, regulation and supervision of financial institutions carrying on banking businesses in Solomon Islands and for purposes connected therewith and to repeal the banking Act 1976.

“The cumulative total amount of more than SBD 56 million amassed by OLP is by any standard very large and for someone to have operated such a banking business illegally for 9 months is shocking and unacceptable.

“The proactive awareness and warnings issued by the CBSI as the regulatory body are commendable, and apart from obviously complying with section 3 (3) of the FIA 1998, it could have taken swift legal action and commenced civil proceedings in the High Court for injunctive orders against the defendant in his capacity as the sole proprietor and trader of OLP and his associates to halt the illegal operations.

“This would have militated against the financial losses that the members of the scheme now suffered.

“However, this is only a subsidiary issue that can be reserved for another day.”

The court also heard that the OLP had stopped its operations in March 2020, and the CBSI had referred the matter to the Police on the 27th of March 2020.

Mr Hollison said it took the Police until June 2021 to arrest the defendant.

He said it should take less than a day to conduct a search at the Company Haus within the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration to retrieve the registration of the OLP as a business name.

“The publicity of the OLP, apart from Covid-19 had gone viral nationally in 2020 and it became a common knowledge around the country.

“There is no reasonable explanation given as to why it took so long for the defendant to be arrested.

“Nevertheless, the CBSI and the Police should be commended for their efforts rendered in this case.”

It was also heard that in the course of OLP’s operation, Dora had three bank accounts with Pan Oceanic Bank (POB), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) and Bank South Pacific (BSP).

Despite not having a licence or an approval from the CBSI, Dora carried on with activities that are consistent with the characteristics of a banking business.

He took deposits and received monies from members of the public, referred to as investors.

The monies obtained from individual investors on separate and various occasions ranged from SBD 250 to SBD 95,750 were paid into the business by the investors in and around Honiara, with a promise of profits after 30 days.

Between the period of December 2019 to March 2020, customers or investors did not receive any form of profits after 30 days.

The court heard that in or around December 2019, the CBSI was alerted about the illegal banking operations.

There were complaints received that the form of investment he was promoting was a scheme similar to a pyramid or ponzi money scheme with promises of higher returns.

Dora went to Russell Islands, Central Province in March 2020 and was arrested on 1 June this year.

Deputy Public Solicitor Martha Manaka represented Dora while Public Prosecutor Vernon Taupongi appeared for the Crown.

Source : Solomon Star

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