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PS debacle: company president in police custody

Senior executives at PS Lao Enterprise have been in police custody since Tuesday evening following a heated confrontation with a mob of people who had deposited money with the company, a police source has said.

The depositors wanted to withdraw their money, which the company had illegally persuaded them to invest several years ago.

Hundreds of depositors stormed the company's premises in Xaythany district, Vientiane, on Monday. The crowd swelled to almost 2,000 on Tuesday after a meeting on Monday between company executives and depositors ended in deadlock.

Company President Ms Souknaly Thepsimeuang and another influential executive, Mr Porher, had been detained by the police, the source said.

The custody was agreed to by the two executives following a meeting on Tuesday in the presence of the Governor of the Bank of the Lao PDR, Dr Somphao Phaysith, Vice Mayor of Vientiane Sihoun Sitthileuxay, and other officials.

“The demonstrating depositors wanted the authorities to detain Ms Souknaly and her colleague. Otherwise, they threatened to use force to detain them (the two executives) and damage company property,” the source told Vientiane Times yesterday.

“Ms Souknaly and Mr Porher agreed to get in a police van and were driven away. Police officers did not use force.”

The dispute, which has been ongoing for several years, would be handled according to the appropriate methods laid down in the law, a senior official at the central bank told Vientiane Times .

The official, who asked not to be named, said the authorities in charge had previously submitted a report about the issue to higher authorities along with recommended solutions, but declined to comment further on the proposed solutions.

“We are now waiting for guidance from higher authorities before we take the next steps,” the official said.

The company, known officially as the PS-Agriculture and Industry Development Import and Export Co., Ltd., has accumulated vast sums of money from the 30,000 depositors who were lured by the unbelievably high interest rate offered. PS later reduced the interest and eventually stopped paying any interest.

The central bank issued a deadline for the company to return all the money to depositors by July 6, but the company did not do so. PS promised to return the money on many occasions but always failed, angering depositors.

The case is the second of its kind. In March this year, a top executive at Asianface Company Ltd., Mr Huot Sovann, was detained by police in a similar incident.

A police source said recently the Cambodian businessman was still in custody, but declined to give details on the progress of the case. Asianface also illegally obtained a large number of deposits from the public, who were tempted by the 9 percent interest rate offered. The company later reduced the interest and then stopped paying altogether.

Dr Somphao told the National Assembly in October last year that as many as 24 institutions had been identified as illegally soliciting money from depositors.

However, moves to return depositors' money have been slow despite the fact that the authorities have intervened in a bid to seek solutions.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update September 14, 2017)

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