Jun 12, 2007

Statement – Hui Fraud

Mr Albanese (Grayndler) (4.18pm) – I rise today to warn of an issue that has arisen in my electorate of Grayndler, particularly involving the Vietnamese community. A ‘Hui’ is a type of informal club in which the members of the club, usually from Vietnamese families, contribute money to the club on a regular basis. The money is lent to other members of the club to assist them when those other members have been unable to obtain financial help from banks or official lending institutions. Hui is an unregulated practice and is not monitored by the government. While most Hui take place between small groups of families, they can grow to enormous sizes involving tens of millions of dollars. Families and individuals deposit money with an administrator or chairman, who then lends money with interest to the other members upon request. The potential for abuse and fraud, particularly by the chairman or administrator, is enormous. The chairman is responsible for large amounts of money, and that chairman is the only person aware of the amounts involved and often has sole control of the money.

Because of the distrust that groups in the community have of traditional banks and government agencies, members are reluctant to come forward when they suspect something is amiss with the administrator’s handling of the money. Potential taxation issues also may be a contributing factor to members’ silence on these issues. No member of a Hui wants to be the one to bring it down. At the moment there is an allegation against an administrator of a Hui centred in Marrickville and comprised of Vietnamese families, mainly in my electorate but also extending right through to Cabramatta. The administrator has allegedly defrauded the club of possibly tens of millions of dollars, funnelling the club’s money offshore and into personal assets. There is also an allegation that the administrator was obtaining fees from members which, in itself, is an illegal act. I understand that in this matter the police have become involved.

While I make no comment on the allegations in particular, I do speak today to warn of the inherent dangers of investing money in high­risk, unregulated and probably illegal financial schemes. When investing money, care should be taken to ensure the bona fides of the scheme. I include in this both regulated and unregulated investment opportunities. I am particularly concerned that it is vulnerable members of the Vietnamese community in my electorate who stand to lose, in many cases, their life savings. They have made representations to me and have asked that I make these issues public in order to warn other members of the community of the dangers which can take place. In this particular case there are ongoing investigations and I certainly encourage the police to pursue them. But I also encourage members of the community to be very wary of schemes such as this which are open to abuse.