The arrest of DMG boss David Murcia Gúzman sparked violent
protests over government actions to shut his business down. Murcia
earlier had threatened investors would lose millions of dollars if he
Murcia, head of financial agency DMG, was caught in
Panama as he tried to flee into Costa Rica. He was extradited
to Colombia, where he and his directors face charges of money
laundering and other financial crimes, police said.
The scheme is one of several in a growing financial scandal
that has sparked riots as mostly poor investors try to recover
their savings and analysts warn about the impact on Colombia’s
already slowing economy.
Authorities are probing possible links between DMG and
Colombia’s multibillion-dollar cocaine trade. An attorney for
the firm has said the company’s managers are innocent.
President Alvaro Uribe, who admits he was caught off guard
by a series of pyramid scandals that erupted last week, has
shut down about 60 DMG stores at which clients used special
debit cards to buy goods as part of their financial contracts.
At least two people were killed in riots last week when the
bosses of other companies, which had promised up to 150 percent
interest, started disappearing with suitcases full of cash.
DMG clients took to the streets of Bogota again on Thursday
to protest the store closings. They refuse to turn their cards
over to the government, saying DMG never reneged on its deals.
“With DMG we never lost, with the government, yes,” said
Carlos Rodriguez, who invested 28 million pesos ($12,000).
Uribe says he will help victims recover their losses, but
uncertainty remains high.
Dozens of clients who lined up at a local football stadium
to fill out papers to turn their DMG debit cards over to the
government where attacked by the protesters, who punched and
kicked them, calling them traitors, before police intervened.
Nearby stood stood 60-year-old Maria Christina, who
deposited 2 million pesos ($850) with DMG 15 days ago.
In return she was given two DMG cards. One entitled her to
get her 2 million pesos back in six months and the other with 2
million pesos in credits to be used in DMG stores to buy
electronic and other goods during the six-month period.
Looking scared by the violence, Maria Christina, who would
not give her last name, said she did not know what to do.
“I’m afraid that if I turn my card over to the government I
will never get anything back,” she said. (Reuters)