Colombia ups police power to fight pyramid schemes

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Colombia has declared a state of emergency to crack down on illegal money-collecting businesses that have lost hundreds of millions of dollars and sparked recent riots.

Interior Minister Fabio Valencia says the government has already used the special powers to boost prison terms for illegal money collecting to 30 years from six, and to give mayors and governors nationwide police powers to shut down such businesses.

The emergency powers last 30 days.

Valencia on Monday said the government will use cash it seizes from the shuttered business to repay thousands of impoverished clients who have lost millions of dollars in what appear to have been pyramid schemes that promised extravagant profits to investors.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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