Thousands of Colombians rioted around the country Nov. 12, demanding their money back after being defrauded in a series of pyramid schemes. In some of the nine cities where the protests erupted, police used batons and tear gas. In recent months, several phony loan companies have vanished along with millions of dollars in deposits after promising interest rates of up to 150 percent.
In some cases, the bogus companies mocked those who had turned over their cash. “Dear investors, thanks for trusting us and depositing your money,” read a note posted on the door of a company in Cauca after its owners disappeared. “Now, for being stupid and believing in financial witchcraft, you will have to work for your money.” Depositors stormed the building, wrecking the company’s offices and looting its computer equipment and furniture. Some left the scene bloodied after police intervened to protect the property.
President Alvaro Uribe called on Colombia’s congress to pass a law to penalize the swindlers. Police arrested one group of loan managers as they tried to flee the central city of Pereira with four suitcases stuffed with cash. They were charged with bribery after offering money to the officers in exchange for their freedom. (Reuters, Nov. 12)