An Investigation Bureau official yesterday confiscates evidence from a Chiu Su Jen Yoga Center in Taipei after the company closed down on Thursday.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
Judicial investigators yesterday searched the offices of Chiu Su Jen Yoga Center (邱素貞瑜珈天地) in Taipei after it abruptly shut down and there were allegations that its owner, Chen Yu-feng (陳玉芬), had absconded to Australia with the company’s funds.
Prosecutors said they are looking to bring fraud charges against Chen, adding that she might have covered up the company’s financial problems before fleeing the country with membership fees and other assets worth more than NT$10 million (US$309,780).
Armed with warrants, prosecutors and officers from the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau conducted searches at the company’s offices, yoga centers and Chen’s residence, confiscating documents and material related to membership lists, financial ledgers and bank accounts.
Two company accountants were summoned for questioning at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office, while Chen was listed as a suspect in a pending fraud case.
Prosecutors urged Chen to return to Taiwan and cooperate with the investigation.
After the company closed down on Thursday, the Consumer Protection Commission received nearly 300 complaints about the company, mostly from members and teachers seeking financial recompense.
A woman surnamed Chang (張) told reporters she had just paid NT$100,000 for a 10-year membership.
“The owner has swindled us. I am asking the government to get my money back,” she said.
A group of 30 employees and yoga teachers protested outside the Taipei Department of Labor after they turned up for work on Thursday only to find the company’s offices and yoga centers locked. They said the company owed them many months of unpaid wages.
A notice purportedly written by Chen was posted on the doors of the offices and yoga centers, stating that business operations had been suspended due to financial difficulties caused by management issues and unsuccessful investment in a new business venture.
Chen also sent a similar letter to all members explaining that she had gone abroad to take care of her ailing husband, who is battling cancer.
Chen said in the letter that she was tired and also had health issues, while promising to return to Taiwan after dealing with her personal affairs.
“The external economic environment, the depressed economy and other factors have resulted in the poor performance of the company and we are unable to pay employees’ wages, therefore we had no choice but to suspend operations as of April 27.... I sincerely apologize for having caused trouble for everyone,” the letter said.
One yoga teacher said when the company signed a contract with her and the other instructors, they had to pay NT$100,000 and a NT$30,000 deposit to the company, money which has not been returned.
Taipei Consumer Protection officer Ho Hsiu-lan (何修蘭) said a preliminary estimate indicated that the company has more than 1,000 members and Chen was still promoting the business and signing up new members until this week.
Ho said one person filed a complaint saying she had paid NT$180,000 for lifetime membership with the promise of unlimited use of the company’s outlets, while another paid NT$120,000 for a four-month yoga instruction course.
Founded in 1976, the Chiu Su Jen Yoga Center is a leading chain with 12 outlets and three “education centers” and about 80 employees, according to company data.