Jail, fine for man who headed Galaxy Trio pyramid scheme with wife involving $3m and 3,968 people

David Sun
The Straits Times
Dec 28, 2023

A man and his wife were called the “Adam and Eve” of a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme by the prosecution, having spearheaded the programme involving more than $3 million in Singapore.

Mohamad Hisham Mohd Idris, 58, and his wife, Nurnavi Janti Imam Makruf, 53, were the first to participate in and promote the illegal Galaxy Trio referral programme after bringing it to Singapore in 2013.

On Dec 27, Hisham was convicted on two charges under the Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act (MLMA) and sentenced to four months’ jail, a $10,000 fine and a penalty of $27,509. A third similar charge was taken into consideration for sentencing. He is currently out on bail pending an appeal.

Each of the charges related to him promoting the Galaxy Trio scheme with his wife, whose case is pending.

Galaxy Trio is a foreign company that was started in January 2013.

Around that time, a person identified only as Vanessa, who claimed to be from Galaxy Trio, met Hisham and Nurnavi in Singapore and invited them to be involved in the programme by training others how to promote the scheme.

They agreed and became the first two in Singapore to join the programme, which was also promoted in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

As the first to join here, they became the highest “uplines” in Singapore, and promoted the scheme for more than two years from March 2013 to May 2015.

The scheme involved two types of “boards” with pyramid structures, which participants could join for a fee. One was a “Mars” board, which cost US$300 (S$400) to join, and the other was a “Jupiter” board that cost US$1,500 to join.

Members could open multiple accounts for more places on the boards, with bonuses for different positions and referrals.

A referral bonus on a “Mars” board was US$25, while the bonus on a “Jupiter” board was US$75.

The accounts for participants were opened via the Galaxy Trio website and the accounts gave them access to several e-books and audio tracks.

The bonuses were deposited into participants’ e-wallets on the website, which they could then withdraw for a 10 per cent processing fee and an additional charge of 3 per cent on the remaining sum. This meant that for a withdrawal of $100, a participant would get $87.30.

Hisham had registered a partnership named GT Academy in May 2013 and rented office space in Kembangan to provide training and presentations on the Galaxy Trio programme.

The partnership was later replaced by GT Academy Pte Ltd, which was incorporated by Hisham and Nurnavi in March 2014, as Hisham wanted to avoid being sued personally for matters pertaining to GT Academy’s business activities.

The last participant of the scheme was recruited on May 16, 2015.

By then, more than 9,000 accounts had been opened by 3,968 participants, including Hisham and Nurnavi.

People waiting to attend the Galaxy Trio seminar at Kembangan Plaza in 2014. 

A total sum of at least $3.3 million had been channelled into the programme.

Hisham received about $1.3 million in cash from the scheme, but he paid about $1.27 million in expenses relating to his participation, including more than $1 million to buy credits on the site, which were used to open accounts.

His net benefit was found to be a total of $27,509.

The prosecution urged the court to jail Hisham for a period of 22 to 30 weeks, as there was strong public interest in eliminating such schemes here.

In their submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors Norman Yew and Jonathan Tan said the objective of the MLMA was to enshrine Singapore’s zero-tolerance approach to prohibited pyramid-selling schemes, as they have an unsustainable business model with the potential to cause widespread financial ruin to participants.

The prosecutors added that when the law was passed in the 1970s, the Government found the schemes so problematic that the objective should be to eliminate them entirely rather than try and control them.

They said Hisham’s level of involvement in the scheme was high and second only to Vanessa, who had invited him to spearhead the Galaxy Trio referral programme here.

“(Hisham and Nurnavi) were the highest ‘uplines’ in Galaxy Trio; they were the Adam and Eve of the 3,966 participants in the scheme, as they could not have joined the scheme without them participating in it first,” the prosecution said.

During sentencing, District Judge Teoh Ai Lin noted that while there was no fraudulent intent on Hisham’s part and he was not the creator of the scheme, there were substantial and sustained efforts by him to promote it and the scale of its reach had been extensive.

A stay of execution on the sentence was granted, with bail of $30,000 offered to Hisham pending an appeal.

For promoting the MLM scheme, he could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to $200,000.

The Straits Times

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