Scam slows down Iloilo businesses

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ILOILO CITY—The businesses of investors who had fallen victims to an Iloilo-based financial firm being investigated for alleged fraud have slowed down, according to one of the victims.

Many of the victims, mostly small Chinese-Filipino businessmen, have set aside expansion plans for their businesses.

“We had worked hard for the money that we invested. And many of us are having difficulties because we cannot recover our investments,” said Chiu Han Sing Cembrano, one of the investors, in an interview with Inquirer.

Cembrano is among the 17 complainants representing families or groups who have sought the assistance of the Department of Justice to investigate the Evergreen Finance (Iloilo) Inc. (EFII) for financial fraud.

P400M in losses

The complainants are seeking the recovery of at least P400 million in investments that they deposited with the credit firm. They were issued placement certificates by the firm and were promised annual interests between 8 percent and 12 percent.

The National Bureau of Investigation Western Visayas office has confirmed that it has investigated the EFII and has submitted its findings and recommendations to the NBI central office. The regional office has, however, declined to reveal the contents of its report.

Various sources have estimated that the total amount of investments in the EFII reached from P3 billion to P5 billion.

EFFI president Reynaldo “Wilky” Navarro has not responded to requests of the Inquirer for comment. His lawyer was also out of the country as of Wednesday.

Cembrano, who operates various businesses in Iloilo including a hotel, said he started investing in the financial firm about three years ago.

Prestige gone

Most of the investors put in capital for the EFII because Navarro was a former banker who was highly regarded in the community.

Cembrano said he regularly received interest payments for his investments until early last year when the payments stopped. The firm did not give the investors any explanation for the nonpayment and where their money went.

“We went to their office but (Navarro) said he cannot pay us. Then he refused to see us and we could not contact him,” Cembrano said.

Checks issued by the EFII were also rejected by the bank due to the closure of the account.

Cembrano said they only want to recover their investments.

“We will not run after him if our investments are returned,” he said.

Hardest hit

The hardest hit are small businessmen and retirees who invested most of their lifetime earnings and savings in EFII.

“Our community is affected because some invested up to 80 percent of their earnings. Several are depressed and have largely kept it to themselves,”

according to a business operator and a member of the Chinese-Filipino community in Iloilo who spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity.

But Joemarie Agriam, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries-Iloilo, said no businesses in Iloilo had shut down due to exposure to EFII.

He, however, declined to elaborate, saying he was not privy to the controversy because most of those affected are members of the Filipino-Chinese community.

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