Now here’s a new take on the pyramid scam …
In October, Dozens of people protested outside an insurance office in Shanghai, demanding the return of money lost in a scheme promising big returns on investments in memorial halls for ashes of the deceased.
The protesters, mainly retirees, had bought into investment products in the 1990s linked to returns on sales of cemetery plots and repositories for ashes that were later exposed as classic pyramid schemes.
The company, based in the province of Jiangsu which adjoins Shanghai, had been wound up as an illegal operation, but investors had not had a penny returned, protesters said.
State media said investors had tried unsuccessfully to sue a local branch of China Pacific Insurance, the country’s third largest insurer, for underwriting the company.
“When they sold us this product, they told us it would make better returns than having the money sitting in the bank. Now it has been 10 years and we still cannot get our money back,” said a 65-year-old woman surnamed Xu outside the offices of China Pacific Insurance in Shanghai’s financial district.
“You owe me money and you are a liar. You don’t even know how mean you are,” said a banner held by one of the protesters.
China issued rules last year reinforcing a ban on the trade in tomb futures, or speculating in the business of selling graves, after it bankrupted thousands of investors.
But traditional notions of filial piety and belief in the after-life have proved resilient, and have fueled a lucrative but poorly regulated funeral industry.