MANILA (UPDATED) - The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will file criminal complaints against officials of Kapa Ministry International for an alleged investment scam that reportedly defrauded participants of as much as P50 billion.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered authorities to shut down Kapa, which is operating as a religious group.
SEC Chairman Emilio Aquino said on Monday that regulators held back in taking action vs Kapa because it was operating as a religious organization.
Court injunctions also caused setbacks, Aquino said.
But he also maintained that no court below the Court of Appeals can stop the decisions of the SEC.
"We intend to pursue criminal charges against the officials and defenders of Kapa," Aquino said.
Aquino said Kapa did not have the appropriate secondary license for investment products, but still solicited what it called "donations" promising returns as high as 30 percent per month.
The SEC said Kapa promised billions of pesos to its members, but the group's assets cannot back up such claims.
P50 BILLION 'INVESTMENT SCAM'
The group accepted investments, which it dubbed as "donations" of no less than P10,000 from each of its members, the SEC said.
In return, Kapa promised a monthly interest rate of 30 percent, dubbed as "blessings" by the group.
In comparison, the top performing mutual fund in the country only yielded returns of 9 percent for a whole year.
The SEC said this could be considered to be among the biggest investment scams in the Philippines since it has already gotten no less than P50 billion from its members.
"With 5 million members, with a minimum investment of P10,000 per member, you're looking at P50 billion," said Aquino.
'ENRICH THE POOR'
Kapa's founder, Pastor Joel Apolinario denied the allegations, insisting his organization's goal was to help the poor.
Kapa, short for Kabus Padatuon or Enrich the Poor in the local language, was registered as an independent religious group on March 3, 2017, with headquarters in Bislig City in Surigao del Sur, according to SEC records.
But as early as March 8, 2017, the SEC already issued an advisory against Kapa, saying the group was not authorized to solicit investments.
This was after the group allegedly started collecting investments from the public with a promise of 30 percent interest each month "until forever."
In October 2018, the SEC issued another warning against Kapa over the same issues.
Last February, the SEC issued a cease and desist order against Kapa.
Authorities have conducted several raids on Kapa offices across the country.
Many members of Kapa meanwhile said they were still expecting to get their "blessings."