A court in the southern Philippines has ordered the arrest of a pastor and other leaders of a religious sect allegedly behind an investment scam.
Warrants for the arrest of Pastor Joel Apolinario and six other members of the Kabus Padatuon (Make the Poor Rich)-Community Ministry International, Inc., or Kapa, were issued by a court in the province of Surigao del Sur on Feb. 11.
The warrants are based on charges by the government’s regulatory commission regarding the unauthorized sale, offering for sale, or distribution of securities to the public.
Last year, Philippine authorities launched an investigation into the activities of Kapa over an alleged promise of a 30 percent return on so-called “donations.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission charges the group has employed a Ponzi scheme — a form of fraud promising impossibly high returns.
“It is about time that the people behind Kapa answer the criminal charges filed against them,” said Emilio Aquino, chairman of the commission.
The country’s religious leaders had earlier warned Filipinos against falling for “too good to be true” money-making scams.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu said that while generosity is always a virtue, “if you feel you are being fooled and taken advantage of, you should be discerning.”
Salih Musa, a Sharia lawyer in Mindanao, said that the interest that investment schemes collect is considered “usurious” and therefore prohibited in Islam.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has personally ordered investigators to shut down Kapa’s alleged investment scam.
The president described the scheme as a form of “pyramiding” and “syndicated fraud”, as the group offered and sold securities in the form of investment contracts in the guise of donations.
To join Kapa’s investment scheme, an individual had to fill out a form and donate from 10,000 pesos (US$200) to two million pesos ($39,000), with promises of a 30 percent monthly return.
The contract stated that the donation would be used to achieve the group’s mission —“propagation of the religious faith” — and the establishment of livelihood programs.
Several investment schemes, some promising up to a 500 percent return on investment, have sprouted up in the southern Philippines, prompting Duterte to order an investigation into the matter.