Several customers of playgroup operator Bambini Republic, which recently closed all its outlets, suspect they have been deceived to the tune of a combined HK$2 million (US$260,000, Apple Daily reported Friday.
They said Bambini Republic boss Tom Miu recruited investors in his business three or four years ago.
A woman named Sandy, whose son started going to a Bambini playgroup in 2011, said she was persuaded by Miu to invest in the business, having seen that the branches in Tsuen Wan and Tin Hau were often fully booked.
Miu assured her of the enormous market potential of playgroup classes and said he needed HK$2.7 million to open new branches in Sha Tin and Tsim Sha Tsui.
Sandy bought into the idea and coughed up HK$300,000.
She said 10 other parents each contributed between HK$100,000 and HK$600,000 to make up the total of HK$2.7 million Miu asked for.
At first, Miu would give them quarterly updates on the accounts of the business.
However, after a year, Miu could not be contacted any more.
And in July 2013, the parent shareholders received an email from Miu saying the Tsim Sha Tsui branch would be closed down.
A fellow parent surnamed Cheung invested HK$900,000 in 2012 to become a shareholder of the Bambini branch in Kwun Tong.
She was given a return of allotment form and was told her name was added as a shareholder of Empresa Tres Ltd.
Cheung said Miu once told her that their business was going public and on other occasions that it could be acquired by other companies.
She said she has not been able to get hold of Miu since the middle of this year.
Cheung was shocked to find out through a solicitor that she was not a shareholder of Empresa or Bambini.
She then called the police.
Cheung and Sandy also discovered that the company that owned three branches of Bambini in 2013 was renamed.
Some investors were understood to have filed lawsuits toward the end of last year.
It appears, however, that Miu has fled while the legal proceedings are ongoing, the report said.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said police could conduct investigations along the lines of a fraud case.
The Customs and Excise Department confirmed it has received 12 complaints of unfair trade practices under the Trade Description Ordinance in relation to the case.
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