Four people operating a pyramid investment scheme that promised clients lucrative returns received suspended jail sentences yesterday. Wai Ping-luen, 34, Lam Kwok-hing, 39, Liu Chak-wing, 28, and Ng Lai-see, 36, pleaded guilty at Eastern Court to one count of promoting a pyramid selling scheme. They had also been jointly charged with conspiracy to defraud, but the prosecution dropped the second charge yesterday. The four set up an investment company called 2.4 Million Inc Ltd in November 1998, promoting a pyramid scheme which they said promised clients profits of $2.4 million from an initial outlay of $240, the court heard. Magistrate Colin Mackintosh handed down four-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, to Wai, Lam and Liu, the directors of the company. They were also fined $30,000 each. Ng received a two-month suspended jail sentence - also suspended for two years - and was fined $10,000. The magistrate heard that for a $65 joining fee, participants would receive a plastic watch and a receipt bearing seven bank numbers, the court heard. After depositing $25 into each account, participants would receive five cards bearing seven bank account numbers, with the last being their own account number. The participant would have to find five new players to pass the cards on to. New players had to put $25 into the accounts printed on the cards before they could join the game. With each new recruit, the participant's account number would move up one level and he would get $25 in return. The players were told the process would be repeated until their numbers topped the list, and would then be removed. By then they allegedly would have received $2.4 million. Mr Mackintosh said pyramid investment fraud was an old trick that everyone knew would not work. 'It exists only in mathematics. Due to human nature, it is doomed to fail. You are using high-pressure selling methods to induce clients into joining the scheme. While you are not telling lies to clients, you are not telling them the whole truth,' he said. He said the defendants knew that realistically it was impossible for all participants to make money, yet they still promoted the scheme to potential clients. 'This is a very bad example. Although this is only the second prosecution against such offences since 1980, the court must give a warning to deter such dishonest business,' the judge said.