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WE DEMOLISH PYRAMID CONS; `Empowering' scams to be outlawed.

Byline: JANICE BURNS EXCLUSIVE

PYRAMID selling scams exposed by the Record are to be outlawed.

The schemes, which left thousands of people in debt and misery, will be made illegal in new gambling legislation next year.

The pledge by Sports Minister Richard Caborn was welcomed last night by campaigning Scots MP Anne Begg.

She has battled for an end to schemes such as Women Empowering Women, which was exposed in the Record in 2001.

Hundreds of her constituents lost everything in the stings, which promised huge returns for an initial stake of a few thousand pounds.

Begg said last night: "I am delighted the Government has taken action to outlaw these insidious schemes which prey on the most vulnerable in society.

"Unfortunately, it cannot bring back the money lost by my constituents and others, but it is certainly a relief that no one else will be conned out of their hard- earned money under the impression that they are making a legitimate investment.

"The assurance I have received from Richard Caborn gives a clear signal that gifting schemes are serious enough to be banned by law. "

Although some people made a fortune out of the scams, many more ended up losing all their cash.

In Women Empowering Women, victims were encouraged to put pounds 3000 in an investment kitty and then find another eight recruits to do the same.

If they succeeded, the woman at the top of the list pocketed pounds 24,000 but recruits dried up, leaving many so-called investors with nothing - and sometimes heavily in debt.

IT operator Frances Kerr, 26, ploughed pounds 2500 into the Springburn, Glasgow, scheme hoping to turn her investment into a pounds 20,000 windfall. But she lost the lot when the Springburn group collapsed as the supply of investors ran dry.

During our campaign, the Record revealed that Women Empowering Women was first used by the Mafia to launder money in America.

Thousands of Scotswomen scrambled to join the scheme, which first emerged in poorer areas of Glasgow, such as Dalmarnock and Possilpark, in 2001.

Last year, we also exposed loan sharks who were handing over cash to hard-up Scots so they could blow it on pyramid selling schemes.

Women Empowering Women also caused financial chaos on the Isle of Wight, where the banks ran out of money for a while. And the collapse of a similar scheme sparked violent civil unrest in Albania.

The major shake-up of British gambling laws will also see children banned from arcade slot machines with a stake of more than 10p. But big-money jackpots of up to pounds 1million will be allowed in adult-only areas.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 22, 2003
Words:440
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