Thursday, March 23, 2006
By Catherine Shanahan
A FIREARM belonging to the promoter of a controversial pyramid scheme in West Cork is being held by gardaí after the man allegedly made threats against investors who demanded their money back.
The man was interviewed by gardaí last week in the wake of the threats and voluntarily handed over his legally held firearm. He was not arrested prior to being interviewed.
A garda source said the man had been operating Speedball, a pyramid scheme where participants invest €1,000 and hope to get €8,000 in return. Angry investors who failed to get a return on their money had threatened to call to his home. The man subsequently made reference to his firearm.
Separately, it is understood a couple of non-nationals received an unexpected €6,000 windfall after an investor in Speedball inadvertently posted the money to the wrong address.
It is believed the €6,000 was the combined investment of a number of members of the same family. The gardaí have not received a complaint in relation to this incident.
The latest developments in Speedball come in the wake of an incident in Clonakilty, West Cork, last week, in which a woman claimed she was threatened by investors demanding a refund. One of the investors, who contacted the Irish Examiner, confirmed that up to 30 people had arrived at her home to seek their missing funds, but he claimed no threats had been made.
Last night, gardaí said up to 100 people will be interviewed after complaints about the Speedball scheme. One complaint was made by the Clonakilty-based promoter and the majority of interviews are on foot of this complaint. Two other complaints are being followed up.
Clonakilty-based Superintendent Pat Maher said they would continue to take statements from people "willing to make them".
He said there had been no further reports of reprisals in Clonakilty in relation to Speedball and no one had complained of misappropriation of funds. Investors in the Clonakilty scheme claim €92,000 has gone missing and just 11 people out of 180 have received a return on their investment. Up to €28,000 is understood to have gone missing from one of the Bantry schemes.
Speedball developed on the back of the Liberty Chart System, a scheme where participants invest between €5,000-€10,000 in the hope of an eight-fold return.