13 Nov 2008

Columbians riot over pyramid scam

9:37 pm on 13 November 2008

Thousands of Colombians have taken part in violent protests to demand the return of money invested in disreputable financial schemes.

Police used batons and tear gas to control angry investors in some of the nine cities where disorder erupted.

In Popayan in the south-western department of Cauca, 2,000 depositors stormed an investment firm's offices.

And in Pereira, in Risaralda, police caught two men hurrying out the back door of a scheme's office with suitcases of cash. They offered one of the cases to the police to let them go.

Angry investors ransacked many of the offices where they had previously delivered their savings, and clashed with police sent to restore order.

A number of bogus companies have vanished in recent months after promising depositors interest rates as high as 150%.

The BBC's correspondent says some of the schemes have actually paid out money to investors to launder drug profits.

Pyramid investment schemes are said to be often more popular than regular savings accounts in Colombian banks, which charge high fees.