Chinese police have uncovered the country's largest ever alleged on-line pyramid selling scheme, involving 170,000 people and 1.36 billion yuan (US$180 million).
The scheme, operated under the name of "Swiss Mutual Fund", required each investor to pay 8,000 yuan (US$1,052) and promised to pay back 400,000 yuan (US$52,000) in 30 months.
In May, authorities of Tai'an City, Shandong Province, learned about the "Swiss Mutual Fund" and began investigating.
They found the so-called "fund" had never been registered at the China Security Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) or the People's Bank of China (PBOC), and concluded it was illegal.
The People's Procuratorate of Taishan District of Tai'an City has charged Wei Lixin and Chen Yong for operating a pyramid selling scheme.
The Chinese authorities have been taking hard line against pyramid selling schemes of different kinds.
The Ministry of Public Security launched a campaign against pyramid selling from July 16 to August 15, identifying 600 schemes involving 1.7 billion yuan (US$224 million) nationwide, with more than 3,300 organizers and core members arrested in 14 provinces and cities.
In 1998, the government banned pyramid selling. In 2005, the Provisions on the Prohibition of Pyramid Scheme were published and put into effect.