‘Bless to be Blessed’ ordered to refund clients

The Reserve Bank of Vanuatu (RBV) has given the ‘Bless to be Blessed’ scheme in Port Vila 7 days to refund all monies collected from the public. The ultimatum was confirmed by RBV Governor, Simeon Malachi Athy yesterday.

Describing the operations of ‘Bless To Be Blessed’ as illegal, Mr Athy made the statement on behalf of the RBV which has the statutory powers under both the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu [CAP. 125] and the Financial Institution Act [CAP.254], to among other things: (i) ensure there is financial stability in the country; and (ii) issue licences for entities wanting to carry on banking business.

“The Bank is aware that other relevant authorities are also playing their part to address this situation,” he said, noting members of the public in Vanuatu must have been aware of a Reserve Bank Notice this week about Scams, Ponzi schemes, Pyramid schemes and fraudulent activities that arise from time to time in Vanuatu.

“In the last few months, the Bank has become aware that public were drawn in numbers towards an operation known as “Bless To Be Blessed” which promises high returns to depositors,” the RBV Governor said.

“The Bank also understands that there are other similar schemes operating around Vanuatu, with similar characteristics of promising high returns.

“The Bank is concerned that public in Vanuatu continue to fall prey to these scams, despite numerous public statements and awareness on these illegal activities and therefore advise against their continuation.

“In the normal operation of such schemes, very high rates of returns are promised in order to entice new customers.

“The scheme pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors; once the inflowing cash dries up, the scheme collapses, leaving a lot of people deprived of their hard-earned savings. Such schemes are set up to defraud people and always fall apart based on past examples. About four (4) different similar schemes have been established in the past.

“Nothing much had happened to those involved and depositors’ funds have been lost or difficult to recover.

“It is a concern that the public in Vanuatu has not learnt from those lessons.”

The Bank therefore wishes to advise the public to stay away from these activities-as there is no guarantee that they will get their money back safe.

“Bless to be Blessed” is an illegal activity that should have never been established in the first place, as the Licence obtained was issued under a non-existent law.

The RBV has written to ‘Bless to be Blessed’ warning it that the business activities that they are illegally carrying on is a banking business without obtaining an appropriate banking licence from the regulator.

On this basis, they are in breach of section 6 and 9 of the Financial Institutions Act.

The Reserve Bank’s directive stipulates in that letter for Bless to be Blessed to immediately cease its operations:

1. That all funds collected from the public be repaid forthwith as required by section 9 of the FIA; and

2. Bless to be Blessed is given 7 days as of the date of this letter to refund all monies collected from the public.

“In our discussion with B2BB, we advised them to formally write to the Bank on some of their requests; the Bank never agreed on the grace period as stated in certain media outlets,” Athy said.

“The Reserve Bank of Vanuatu therefore warns the Public at large to immediately refrain from placing deposits into these illegal schemes as they are operating outside of the law and they do not have the necessary capital, investments and systems in place to guarantee the safety of depositor’s fund.”