Jakarta – The National Police on Friday named 14 suspects in the ongoing investigation into pyramid scheme-style investment app DNA Pro after thousands of users reported financial losses totaling Rp 551 billion ($38 million).
DNA Pro was one of the so-called trading robots taken down in a recent government crackdown on phony investment apps.
"There are at least 3,621 victims who have reported to the National Police Headquarters with a total loss of Rp 551.7 billion," Special Economic Crime Director Brig. Gen. Whisnu Hermawan told a news conference in Jakarta.
He said 11 suspects are already in custody while three others remain at large. "We believe that the three fugitives have fled to a foreign country," he added.
The three are identified as DNA Pro's co-founders Verawati and Devinata Gunawan and business development director Daniel Zii aka Fauzi.
Police have been investigating the suspected fraud since January when they decided to take down the app.
Whisnu said authorities have frozen 64 bank accounts with links to DNA Pro and a combined deposit of Rp 105.5 billion, seized Rp 112.5 billion in banknotes of various denominations, and confiscated 20 kilograms of gold and 14 luxury cars.
An unspecified number of properties have also been sealed during the police investigation.
"We don't stop there because investigators and their colleagues from the [anti-money laundering agency] PPATK continue to trace assets here and abroad," Whisnu said.
The officer added that DNA Pro has committed to "manipulative investment" without a proper trading mechanism and any government license.
All the 11 suspects in custody including president director Daniel Abe were presented at the news conference.
Daniel offered an apology to users and colleagues but argued that the initial idea was not to develop a pyramid scheme investment app.
"It grew so rapidly in terms of [the number of] users while our system was not fully ready yet that it developed into a pyramid scheme," Daniel said.
Other suspects are identified as Rudi Kusuma, Robby Setiadi, Dedi Tumiadi, Yosua Trisutrisno, Franky Yulianto, Russel, Jerry Gunandar, Stefanus Richard, Hans Andre, and Muhammad Asad.
They could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted of financial scams.
The app offered big investment returns and even higher commissions if users could bring new signups. It hired celebrities and prominent people to convince new users.
Actress Una Astari Thamrin once spoke highly of the app but last month she claimed that she too was a victim after being interrogated by police.
Una was promised six Honda cars in return for a certain level of investment and a certain number of new recruits in DNA Pro, a lawyer for the actress said.
"She and her family fall victims to DNA Pro because she has invested Rp 1.5 billion but could only withdraw Rp 603 million," Yafet Rissy said.
The lawyer claimed that Una wasn't involved in the DNA Pro management although she was hired to appear in promotion programs on three occasions.