In perhaps one of the most overdue regulatory safeguards for Singapore investors, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) finally announced that precious metal buy-back arrangements will be regulated either as debentures or investment funds, depending on their features. This announcement was made after its consultation paper published on 21 July 2014.
This move to regulate the precious buy-back schemes is a result of the spate of gold ponzi schemes offered by Genneva Gold, The Gold Guarantee and Suisse International in Singapore. Seduced by the so called guaranteed payouts of 20% or incredibly high buy-back prices, many unwitting investors were sold on these gold buy-back schemes. Many of these victims didn’t realize that they were actually walking into traps devised by cheats.
In the aftermath, many victims sought to enlist the help of the authorities to claim back their investments but were shocked to find out that these financial instruments were not regulated at all. There were even reports that some victims sank more than hundred of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned savings into these gold-back schemes. Some even pooled money with their families to join these schemes.
The reason why many Singapore investors were conned was because many of them were attracted to buying gold when it reached its peak during the period 2010 to 2011. Many of them don’t realize the counter-part risk involved and the actual dynamics of the paper gold market.
In future, MAS will regulate this type of non-conventional investment products, and the regulators states that “such arrangements are equivalent to collateralised borrowing and will be regulated as debentures under the Securities and Futures Act (“SFA”). The scope will be limited to arrangements involving gold, silver and platinum, as these are widely regarded as financial assets and are commonly used as collateral for such arrangements”.
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