THA CHIEF SECRETARY Ancil Dennis has warned Tobagonians that "many will lose their money" by investing in quick-cash schemes.
Dennis' comments came after a large crowd turned up on Saturday at Shepherd's Inn, Crown Point to invest in the Tobago branch of the Drugs Sou-Sou (DSS).
The public is being offered a return of $23,000 for an initial investment of $3,500.
People lined up from as early as 3am on Saturday to get an early number for registration. But with the crowd swelling and spilling onto the road, police arrived. Seven people were arrested for flouting covid19 regulations.
Last month, Finance Secretary Joel Jack said he was surprised by the "horror stories" surrounding pyramid schemes and warned people not to take part.
“Some of these programmes are just schemes. They are not meant to bless you but rob you of your scarce-earned financial resources," he said.
DSS founder Kerron Clarke, a soldier, has maintained that his operation is legitimate.
In an interview with Newsday on Monday, Dennis was adamant DSS was not in fact a sou-sou, despite the name.
He said, "A sou-sou is a co-operative savings system in which each person contributes the same fixed amount each week, and the whole amount is taken by a different member each time. Therefore, DSS is not a sou-sou."
Dennis described the DSS business model as "unsustainable" and said many will eventually lose their investment.
"If ten Tobagonians invest $3,500 each, then that is $35,000 collected by DSS. DSS must then find $230,000 within 28 days to fulfil the promised returns on the investment.
"That, to me, is unsustainable, and while some will be paid, many will lose their money in the end. The promised rate of return is more than 500 per cent, and no reputable institution in the world offers this kind of return.
"In order to sustain this, DSS must either operate at huge losses or find the money elsewhere: either through investments with a higher rate of return, or from its liquidity which obviously belong to other people and will fall woefully short anyway."
With the tourism industry almost stagnant owing to the measures to slow the spread of covid19, Dennis, who holds the portfolio of Secretary of Tourism, said he understands why people might be lured to DSS and other quick-cash ventures.
However, he issued some advice.
"These are challenging times, and everybody wants a quick dollar. It is not my place to tell people what to do with their own money, and I understand why persons will take such huge risks at this time. However, it is incumbent on me to say four things: there is more in the mortar than the pestle; skim yuh water before yuh dip arm; word ah mouth nuh food ah belly; one, one does full basket."
The DSS operation has attracted the full attention of the Prime Minister who on Thursday described it as a "cancer which if left unchecked can eat the soul of the nation.”
Dr Rowley said investigators from Britain and Barbados will work alongside local police to probe DSS.
On September 22 police raided a house in La Horquetta and seized $22 million from DSS. However, less than 24 hours later the cash was returned, much to the chagrin of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
Four cops have been suspended and 11 transferred as the DSS probe continues. .