BOGOTA -- Colombia's banking superintendent, Cesar Prado, resigned as scores of investors were swindled by an illegal pyramid scheme, the government announced as it began studying emergency measures to meet the situation.
The presidential press secretary, Cesar Mauricio Velasquez, told reporters Friday that Prado had offered his resignation and it was accepted.
He added that Roberto Borras, the Finance Ministry's financial regulations director, was immediately named to replace Prado on an interim basis.
The crisis in offices involved in offering illegal investments in exchange for high interest rates exploded last week and in the past three days there have been disturbances in several cities, to such an extent that a curfew had to be imposed.
The giant fraud has caused three deaths - one of them a person who lost his money in the scheme and committed suicide - as well as destruction and disorder in a dozen cities.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ordered Friday a meeting of economic authorities to study whether special measures need to be adopted, including a change in the law to increase criminal penalties for the crime of raising massive sums illegally, which is currently not punishable with prison.
Uribe also announced punishment for those who raise funds illegally and do not return the entire amount to investors.
A third measure under study will allow money recovered from the pyramid scheme to be returned to investors "by means of a quick administrative procedure."
The authorities estimate that companies promising a return on investment of up to 300 percent in a few months have succeeded in collecting some $870 million.
Opposition politicos accuse the administration of not acting in time to avoid the pyramid frauds.
The same sources added that one of the measures being studied seeks to guarantee funds so that investors can recover their money. EFERelated Story: Pyramid Scheme Leaves 3 Dead So Far
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