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WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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QNet
wholly owned subsidiary
Industry Direct selling
Founded 1998; 19 years ago (1998)
Founder Vijay Eswaran, Joseph Bismark
Headquarters Hong Kong
Key people
Vijay Eswaran, Chairman
JR Mayer, Managing Director
Haldun Arin, CEO
Products Consumer Goods, Watches, Health Devices
Services Travel, life style, Education
Revenue Increase US$430 million (2013)[1]
Number of employees
1500 (2015)[2]
Parent Qi Group
Website www.qnet.net

QNet Ltd, formerly known as QuestNet, GoldQuest, and QI Limited, is a Hong Kong-based direct selling company owned by the QI Group. The company sells a variety of products including energy, weight management, nutrition, personal care, home care, luxury goods, and fashion accessories etc. on an e-commerce platform.[3] QNet was founded in Hong Kong by Vijay Eswaran in 1998 along with QN Europe and other companies.[4] Since it was first introduced in 1998, Qnet or then called Questnet only promoted gold and silver coins with an MLM system. But the coin collection business was touted as a money game and declared illegal in some countries.A few years later Questnet came up with a new name, Qnet and offered varied product while still carrying the way of marketing with MLM system.[5] It promotes its products on its website using claims "that would not pass official muster in much of the world."[6] Despite claiming to be an e-commerce based business, an ordinary retail customer can make a purchase of a product from the website only if they have a referrer ID of an independent representative of QNet. Unlike other e-commerce websites, purchases without this ID are not allowed.[7] Qnet used websites/servers viz.,www.qnetindia.in, www.qnetindia.net, www.qnet.net, www.questnet.net, to conduct its business which were blocked by Indian Computer emergency response team (CERT) following a court order. Other websites like portal.qnetindia.net, are being investigated by the government and further action on the websites have been promised after details are gathered. [8] [9]

The company's marketing strategy follows a direct selling and multi-level marketing model, relying on independent representatives to refer its products to consumers and receive compensation based on the sales volume of their referrals and the sales volume of other independent representatives in their teams who are arranged in a binary fashion.[6] [10] The Independent Representatives who join Qnet, do so in the hope and belief that they can achieve the path to Financial Freedom through the business. [11] [12] [13] The company compensation plan promises maximum weekly payout per tracking centre of $6800 (approx) for a Bronze Star Rank to $20100 (approx) to a Diamond Star Rank Independent Representative of Qnet.[14][15]

The company has operations in 30 plus countries according to its official website and has offices in Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Côte d'Ivoire and Rwanda with franchise companies in India. Singapore and Turkey.[16][17] It was sued by Egypt,[18] Rwanda,[19][20] and Sri Lanka[21][22][23] for allegedly operating a product-based pyramid scheme. The company and its franchise Vihaan are also being investigated in India.[24] The Bombay High Court denied the anticipatory bail plea of all the directors of Vihaan Direct Selling Pvt Ltd., a franchise of QNet, which included world amateur billiards champion Michael Ferreira after it was earlier rejected by Sessions Court. They were facing charges of cheating and forgery [25] The court observed that "the deceit and fraud is camouflaged under the name of e-marketing and business".[26] The Delhi High Court also called it a multi-victim scam and refused to quash FIR against the directors of Indian franchise of Qnet, Vihaan Direct Selling Private Limited.[27] The Serious Fraud Investigation Office, in its report on GoldQuest and QuestNet India has called multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes run by overseas operators as "a potential threat to national security". The Government of India ordered the Serious Fraud Investigation Office to file prosecution against GoldQuest International and QuestNet Enterprise under the Companies Act and Indian Penal Code.[28][29] A brief executive summary of the SFIO report is now available in the public domain.[30] The company has denied the allegations.[6]

History[edit]

Global Support Centre of Qi group (The Qi Tower) in Petaling Jaya

QNet, the main subsidiary of the QI Group of Companies, was founded by Vijay Eswaran and Joseph Bismark in Hong Kong in 1998. The company, first known as GoldQuest and QuestNet, made custom-commissioned numismatic coins and later began selling luxury jewelry and watches.[6][18][31] In 2000, QNet was the official distributor of the Sydney Olympic Games commemorative coins and was also a distributor at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.[32][33]

In 1999, QNet expanded its operations to Malaysia and Singapore and began a partnership with B.H. Mayer's Mint, a German-based mint coin facility.[32] The company expanded its operations to Dubai, India, Indonesia and Thailand during 2001. QNet started to diversify its products in 2002 into travel and vacations by partnering with QVI Club brand holidays.[34] During this time, the company also announced that it was the official coin distributor for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and an expansion into Europe, Australia and Sri Lanka.[32][33]

QNet became a licensed distributor for FIFA in 89 countries with its commemorative coin program in July 2004.[35] In 2005, QNet acquired QI Comm, a British telecommunications company.[6] The company announced that it had more than 1 million independent distributors during the introduction of the aspIRe Magazine.[32] In 2006, QNet began marketing energy, health and nutritional products.[18] That same year, QNet acquired Prana Resorts and Spa, a vegetarian holiday resort in Koh Samui.[34][36] QNet also acquired the Swiss watchmaker, Cimier.[37] In 2007, the QI Group acquired Down To Earth (DTE), a vegetarian organic health store chain in Hawaii.[38][39]

The company announced an initial sponsorship of Team Meritus, a Malaysian motor racing team, and became a sponsor for the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting Business Forum in 2007.[40] In 2007, QNet acquired Down To Earth (DTE), a vegetarian organic health store chain in Hawaii.[38][39] From 2007 and 2012, QNet's direct sales increased by 70%.[6]

From 2009 to 2012, QNet was an official sponsor of the Asian Football Confederation during the AFC Champions League. In 2010, the company started a partnership with Virgin Racing.[41] Qnet received the TRUSTe Privacy Certification in late 2012.[42] In 2013, Qnet announced its intention to shift its manufacturing operations to India and to open an office in Russia.[43][44] The company's QI Tower in Malaysia received the 2013 Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Gold Award.[45] In 2014, Qnet started a three-year partnership with Manchester City football club to become the club's official direct selling partner.[46][47]

Business model[edit]

A typical MLM binary tree structure. The blue individual will receive compensation from the sales of the downline red members.

The company's marketing strategy is based on a multi-level marketing model which depends on a group of independent representatives who refer its products to consumers and receive compensation based on the sales volume of their referrals and the sales volume of other independent representatives in their teams who are arranged in a binary fashion.[48]

Questnet uses network marketing to sell products and services.Customers can choose to become "Independent Representatives" (IRs) of the company paying $10 for a starter kit and an online office. IRs receive 250$ commission after they introduce the products to six people, placing three people on their left and three people on their right, described as two 'legs'. In a complex addition, when an IR introduces a new customer, who then becomes an IR themselves and promotes products, the original IR can benefit from the success of their recruit. But these bonus points can only build up one leg of the original IR, who must then find recruits for the other leg in order to receive commissions.[49] Many governmental entities have described QNet's business model as a simple pyramid scheme: early entrants earn money, and as the number of Independent Representatives (IRs) increases, finding more IRs to join becomes difficult or impossible; IRs that join late do not earn enough to cover their first outlay and the model collapses.[19][50] The Government of India have declared both Goldquest and Questnet as Ponzi scheme companies.[51][52][53][54]

The compensation plan operates by the recruitment of customers by existing IRs.As per official spokesperson, even though there are no sign-up fees, a purchase might be required. This may be in the form of the sale of a qualifying product to a retail customer or by the new representative making a qualifying purchase to validate a Tracking Centre or a slot in the computer system of Qnet.[55] An IR is provided an ID that gives access to a 'Tracking Centre' (TC) in its system that tracks sales. A TC has a left and right customer group. A 'direct' transaction (a customer's personal reference or sale) is counted as one transaction. An 'indirect transaction (someone in the customer's TC buys/refers/sells) is also counted as 1 transaction. The company pays $250 each time 3 product sales on an IR's left customer group are matched by 3 product sales on the right.[22][unreliable source?]

Products[edit]

Under the names GoldQuest and QuestNet, the company primarily sold gold numismatic coins.[56] Qnet expanded its products to include travel and leisure vacations in 2002.[34] By 2006, Qnet had transitioned to marketing and selling "aspirational products", which claim to boost energy, health and nutrition for buyers.[18] According to Eswaran, these types of products account for 30% of Qnet's sales through its business model.[6] The company has also introduced "life-enhancing products" such as a portable water filtration system and air purifier, which Qnet claims can fix pollution issues in homes.[57][58]

The Amezcua Bio Disc (also spelled BioDisc and BioDisk) is one of the company's products. According to Quest Net's no guarantee advertisement, the disc creates a 'water-impacting' energy field that 'helps to reduce stress,improve sleep'. It is a product of Germany, invented by 'Dr Ian Lyons' but his antecedents and research publication is not known. Schott AG is the only industrial glass manufacturer that certifies production of Biodisc but does not confirm Qnet's advertising effects as 'creating an impact energy field'. [59] The Amezcua Bio Disc has been evaluated by research facilities in Germany, India and Japan.[60] The product has received scrutiny from various scientists, media commentators and watchdogs.[61][62]

The company partnered with former professional tennis player Martina Hingis in September 2015 and announced her as its Brand Ambassador of Qnet products and representative of the brand in India.[63][64]

Controversies[edit]

QNet has been the centre of various controversies over a period of time.[65] GoldQuest hawked a gold coin at 100 percent premium over what it should cost.The President of the Madras Coin Society warned that the Goldquest coin was neither a period coin nor it was from an authorized body. [66] Australian Politician Cameron Thompson, the Nepalese Home Ministry, the Sri Lankan Central Bank, and the Iranian Government have described GoldQuest as a pyramid scheme. In 2002, the Australian Office of Consumer and Business Affairs listed the company as one of 61 alleged pyramid schemes.[67][68][better source needed] In 2003, Indian police arrested two of QI group senior managers in Chennai and froze the bank account after receiving complaints from more than 50 of its members.In Philippines, the Department of Trade and Industry issued a cease and desist order for engaging in retailing despite being a wholly foreign owned company.They also received a complaint from a member. In Cambodia Goldquest organized the launch of Ankor Wat commemorative coins amongst 500 young Khmers who had paid 5$ to attend and pick up a starter kit to help them sell the expensive collectibles.The Managing Director of Questnet, Richard Zinkiewicz, insisted that Questnet was not a pyramid scheme, because customers were never obligated to sell products and the product had real value. He said that the value of the coins lay not just in the raw material but because they are limited edition collectibles which may appreciate in value or even double in six years. Vijay Eswaran the founder of QI group told the audience that the opportunities offered by QI could change their lives.[69] [70] Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan while studying the scheme, found that GoldQuest was a Pyramid Scheme It said that such schemes do not generate any productivity but gains are made by someone from the wealth lost by another.The scheme depends on bringing an exponentially growing number of new members and is likely to collapse after a certain stage, resulting in heavy losses to vast majority of its members.[71][72] The Nepalese Home Ministry banned the company from operating in Nepal in 2003, and Bahadur Manandhar, chief of the foreign exchange department of the Nepal Rastra Bank, said GoldQuest was "a hundred percent fraud."[73] The Sri Lankan government banned GoldQuest in 2005, claiming that the company had caused 15 million dollars to leave the country.[21][23][74][75] In 2005, the Iranian government also banned GoldQuest, after prosecutors found that company activities had "led to the exit half of a billion dollars from Iran."[76]

In 2007, APLI, the direct selling Association of Indonesia, called GoldQuest a pyramid scheme,[77] and Interpol arrested Vijay Eswaran and other company officials for fraud.[78] QNet responded that the allegation is unfounded.[79] After three weeks, Indonesian courts released Vijay Eswaran and dismissed the charge soon afterward.[6] QNet continues to operate in Indonesia.[80]

In 2008, around 3,000 people marched on the presidential palace in Kabul to demonstrate against the government's temporary withdrawal of QuestNet's license to operate in Afghanistan. The business started in Afghanistan with around 600 IRs in 2006 and had expanded to 21,000 when the government temporarily withdrew the license to enable it to write operating laws.[81]

The Rwandan Government's Ministry of Finance banned QuestNet in 2009 for violations of company and tax laws after The National Bank of Rwanda described the company as a pyramid scheme.[82][83] Questnet appealed and was granted relief on condition that it follow the country's laws in the future.[17][84][85]

Also in 2009, the Sudanese government banned QuestNet after allegations were made relating to poor product quality and the non-receipt of products.[86][87] The same year, the Syrian Ministry of Economics shut down QuestNet for violating its commercial registration, stating that the company had operated a pyramid scheme in Syria and withdrawn billions of Syrian pounds from the country, while also paying few taxes.[88] The shutdown also applies to other agencies of the company.[89]

In 2010 Questnet opened in Turkey with 150 distributors; 80 of which police detained in an investigation that charged 42 with gaining an unfair advantage.[90] In 2011, the Turkish Trade Ministry investigated QNet following complaints that it was a rebrand of Questnet.[91] The Industry minister stated that Questnet had changed the company name to Qnet and warned citizens against such structures. Quest Net was described as a non moral pyramid scheme in which 96 percent of the members suffered losses and only 4 percent made profits. About 20 million dollars were collected from the public. [92] In 2011, QI Group resumed operations in Turkey with the acquisition of the Dögan Hotel in Antalya.[93][94]

The governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia. Indonesia, and India have accused QNet of operating a product-based pyramid scheme.[95][96][97][98] Dar al-Ifta issued QNet a Fatwā in 2012 stating its business in Egypt is haram (forbidden under Islamic law) and could harm the country's economy.[99][100] In 2010 the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Commerce and Industry banned Qnet, accusing the company of theft, falsification, and failure to register, and warned citizens to avoid involvement in fraudulent schemes, mentioning QNet specifically.[101][102]

The founder of Qnet in Papua New Guinea,son of former politician,denied claims that it is a product based pyramid scheme. He said that he had no ulterior motive than to help people set up their own companies and make money.[103]

Thirteen members of the pyramid company Qnet in Tehran were arrested, and cases for further investigation were provided to judicial authorities. [104]

In May 2013, Salma Sabahi, daughter of politician and Egyptian Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi turned herself to authorities after being accused of fraud for her involvement with a network marketing scam Global Ad Mart.During the past two years she was doubling the size of her pyramid network, selling overpriced counterfeit watches and energy bracelets on behalf of a shady Hong Kong based company Qnet which was operating in Egypt despite being banned in eight countries. [105] [106] [107]

In August 2013, the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) of the Central Bureau of Investigation of India made the first arrest in a case which began in India in 2008.[108] Members of the company were arrested for cheating and were remanded into police custody until August 22. EOW sent teams to Bangalore and Chennai to investigate fraud linked to Vijay Eswaran, considered the prime accused in the QNet case. Six of Qnet's bank accounts were frozen as part of the case.[109][110] A case of money laundering was registered against QNet, its franchise Vihaan Direct Selling, and a few others by the Enforcement Directorate.[111]

The Securities and Exchange Commission (Philippines) had, in May 2014, after continuous failure of Goldquest International Limited, to submit its annual report for the years 1999-2000, 2002-2003, 2007-2013, 2009-12, as required by the Corporation code and upon not finding the corporation at the reported address, revoked the company's license to transact business. [112]

In June 2014, Chairman of the Fatwa Commission of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Riau province, after reviewing the business of Qnet MLM on receiving several complaints, concluded that it does not meet the requirements of a halal MLM . He found that there are elements of fraud and appealed people to avoid the business.[113]

In June, 2014, Tajikistan, the press published critical articles about the commercial activities of the company. The newspaper 'Jumhuriyat' accused Qnet as a financial pyramid, and being dangerous for society. [114][115] The company management, in a press conference, defended the accusations against the company as being not true.[116] On September 2014, the company Qnet (Questnet) filed a lawsuit against private radio station, and journalist Orzu Isoyev, for protection of business reputation after the company was called the next pyramid in one of the direct broadcasts. In one of the programs aired,the journalist raised the issue on the activities of Qnet after listeners complained that the company fraudulently lures them,promising quick and easy money. They were required to buy goods for certain amounts, which then could not be sold, even at lower prices.According to them, network marketing was nothing but a financial pyramid. [117] Religious figures in Tajikistan have stated that the activities of the company was not permissible under Sharia law. This was because the activity involved deceiving of people and also because the work involved two transactions in one transaction, which means the person working for the company must make a purchase and at the same time accept the condition to find new buyers.In addition, one can make profits without difficulty at someone else's expense which is forbidden in Islam.[118]

In 2014, Mumbai police froze the bank account of Danesh Irani, son of actor Boman Irani, after it was found that he had received lakhs of rupees as an independent representative of Qnet. In February 2014, the MD of Questnet India, previous name of Qnet,was arrested after a lookout notice was issued. MD Pushpam Appalanaidu faced 21 cases of cheating filed by various investors and sections under Prize Chits Money Circulation Banning Schemes Act were also invoked against her.[119] QNet has advocated for the regulation of Indian multilevel marketing companies and for the banning of pyramid schemes in India.[43][120][121] The Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors Court said that the activities of the MLM are not legal.[122]

Donald Frazier, a writer for Forbes who focuses on Asian businesses, said in 2012 that the charges against QNet "tend to originate in apocryphal, anonymous or debunked sources".[123] In 2014 the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police filed a First Information Report against QNet and its Indian subsidiary Vihaan and barred them from holding workshops and training sessions.[124][124][125] The Securities and Exchange Board of India in a public interest message to investors advised the victims and investors to file their complaints and grievances with respective state governments and local police authorities.[126] [127]

Qnet officially announced the liquidation of its office in Tajikistan on March 18 2015, continuing its activities through a local company amidst accusations from residents of deceiving them and creating a network pyramid scheme.[128]

The Delhi Economic Offences Wing (EOW) also filed a First Information Report in 2016 against QNet, Vihaan Direct Selling and three independent representatives of the company on the allegations of cheating and fraudulently operating a MLM scheme.[129] Four persons associated with QNet who promised 200 persons of getting them employment were arrested by police in Hyderabad on charges of cheating them of crores of rupees.Police said they were looking for the Managing Director and Director of QNet.[130][131] The Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police, after a three-year probe, filed a 55000-page chargesheet against directors,shareholders of Vihaan Direct Selling Private Limited which is a master franchise of QNet in India.[132][133] In March 2017, the Economic Offences Wing made an arrest of the 47th accused in the Qnet scam case and multiple bank accounts were frozen.[134] In May 2017, the Economic Offences Wing Mumbai announced that a separate refund unit will be formed to refund investors of the Ponzi Scheme once the court passes an order.[135]

GoldQuest disputed Iran's findings, claiming that their Iranian operations were not a pyramid scheme, but network marketing.[136] The Enforcement Directorate has provisionally attached properties worth over 150 crore under provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, of GoldQuest International Pvt. Ltd, Chennai in a case of money circulation business and cheating the public.[137][138]

In Mali it was reported that many people ran into debts in order to join the Qnet network after they were made to believe that their life will change and they will become rich, but that never happened. That was because after making a purchase, the unlucky customer failed to get other people to join their network.[139]

In the Russian market Quest International(Qnet) have an annual turnover of 1.65 billion pound. Earning money in Qnet works by buying 60,000 roubles worth of company products, which is called joining the business and then bring two more people into the company who must buy goods to the same amount.Those people then introduce two more people each. This pyramid can grow to infinity. For each two people introduced, the person who has introduced them receives $250 (160 Pounds). Only 14% of those in the pyramid can get their 60,000 roubles back and it is the last people to join, the levels with most members, that receive the least benefit. [140]

On April 2014, the Investigation Department of the Central Police Department of Baku city of Azerbaijan opened a criminal case of appropriation of money from the citizens fraudulently, by the company Questnet after receiving complaint. In 2012 and 2013, employees of Questnet had taken money totaling more than 27 thousand Azerbaijani manat from 16 residents.[141] The Chairman of the Union of Free Consumers addressed the media about a complaint of Qnet Azerbaijan, citing it to be a financial pyramid, which attracts customers or potential victims by offering them a chance to start their own business with a start up capital of atleast five thousand dollars or more and promising huge future revenues. [142] On December 2016, two employees of Questnet were charged with fraud by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes, and sentenced to eight years in prison. They were arrested in the courtroom. The employees defrauded about 15 citizens of over $65,000.[143] [144]

In Moldova, the wife of a police officer was found to be the organiser of the largest scams of the nation. Case of QNet which was closed by prosecution for lack of evidence was again started with fresh investigations after receiving numerous complaints from defrauded people.[145] Hundreds of Moldovans, eager to get rich overnight, became bankrupt after being attracted by friends and relatives into the financial pyramid Qnet, claiming to be a direct sales company. They were promised thousands of Euros per week but had to first buy atleast $ 2000 of goods from the company. The newcomers had to convince two more people to buy $ 2000 from Qnet to get a commission of $ 250. The commissions would increase depending on the number of people attracted. [146]

The High Commissioner of Boulkiemde, a province in Burkina Faso, Africa termed Qnet as a network of crooks, which uses fraudulent practices to convince young people to join their association. He in an address to all the mayors of the municipalities in his province, rejected the negative effects related to the practices of independent representatives of Qnet.[147][148]

The Ministry of Commerce, has warned citizens of Saudi Arabia, of network marketing which is banned in their country, after receiving complaints about companies like Tvi, Qnet which rely on network marketing.[149]

Many young Syrians in Turkey have been victims of fraud by pyramid marketing companies under the guise of e-marketing and prominent amongst them is Qnet or Questnet.[150] Young people in Damascus, are approached through friends,who are already associated with the company, to sign up and pay a certain amount. No information like details of company name or type of work is shared. A secret meeting with another person is fixed who convinces the new person that large sums of profit is guaranteed in a short period of time and gives him a specific product.The new person is taught how to bring in people and persuade them. The person who brings in people receives a certain amount of about $200.Meetings are held in public places and through these meetings more people are brought in. [151]

Many victims living in Georgia who have taken credits from commercial banks to buy products ranging from 500-3000 US dollars were involved in the Network Marketing company Qnet and believed they have been betrayed because they believe the company is built on the principle of financial pyramid. [152].

The Financial Services Authority (Indonesia) OJK on January 2017 released a list of bogus companies where the company Qnet International Ltd was listed on it.[153][154][155][156]

The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal in June 2017, arrested 102 people belonging to Qnet Network Marketing company and filed cases on fraud charges. The QI Group was banned in Nepal by the Home Ministry in 2003. The Group aims to establish a business in pyramid structure wherein members are required to enrol more members under the scheme and are paid commission for the task.Some of them have enrolled several members of their own family paying as much as Rs 1 million. [157][158][159]

In Jijel province of Algeria, the Gendarmerie Nationale dismantled a dangerous network of young people working for a Network Marketing company Qnet who lured victims of profits, foreign trips abroad specially Malaysia in exchange of considerable financial amounts.[160]

On July 2017, at least 19 teenage victims of multi-level marketing company Qnet were evacuated from a shelter location led by the District Chief and police officers at Simo Boyolali Indonesia and sent back to their parents.They claimed to have joined Qnet because of they were tempted by the sweet promises promised.The teenagers were recruited as a member of Qnet. [161] [162] [163]

See also[edit]

  • QNet Open – A women's tennis tournament sponsored by the company

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