MMM Global: Scheme or scam?

Sibhekisipho Fayayo
THOUSANDS of people could be taken for a ride once more as another a�?get rich quicka�? scheme descends on Zimbabwe.

The scheme comes with a popularity wave from South Africa under the name a�?tripple Ma�? or simply MMM and it prides itself in being a a�?social financial networka�?.

MMM stands for Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox a�� it takes its name from its founder a�� a Russian national Sergey Panteleevich Mavrodi (ABOVE) a convicted Russian fraudster. MMM was founded in 1989 in Russia.

Mavrodi declared MMM bankrupt on December 22, 1997, then disappeared, and was on the run until his arrest in 2003.

That seemingly means nothing to people in Southern Africa where it has found a new home and ita��s growing from strength to strength.

Offices in Harare, Kwekwe and Bulawayo have been opened and people are flocking in droves to make a�?easy moneya�?.

The scheme is not on auto pilot a�� there are managers who move in small bands like guerrilla soldiers also taking up roles as commissars a�� recruiting people.

One of them spoke to B-Metro on condition of anonymity.

a�?There are people who came down from South Africa on 19 December to make presentations. Thereafter, they made us do courses online, after that we became managers,a�? he said.

Zimbabweans are still smarting from another wave of pyramid schemes that dominated the financial services market around 2012-13. Some sold houses, cars and even squandered public funds investing in these schemes that collapsed.

However, when B-Metro spoke to one of the MMM Global Zimbabwe platform agents he denied that it was a pyramid scheme.

He likened it to a stokvel practice where people donated money periodically to assist each other.

a�?It is not an investment, ita��s a stokvel where people donate money to each other and that money is stored somewhere where it gains an interest of 30 percent per month. Therea��s no day where (Russian MMM founder Sergey) Mavrodi gets access to the money because the money is within the members,a�? he said.

The agent professed ignorance on what a pyramid scheme is.

a�?Ia��m not aware of a pyramid scheme and its operations. I have only heard through hearsay but I can vouch for this one, ita��s not being a pyramid scheme.

a�?I am not sure if it will collapse. I dona��t think so because I have been to South Africa and I witnessed with my own eyes how it works. I can tell you people are benefitting out there,a�? the agent said.

While stokvels in South Africa are legal, MMM Global is yet to register their scheme in Zimbabwe.

a�?We are busy trying to regularise our operations with the relevant authorities,a�? said the agent.

MMM Global uses Econeta��s EcoCash facility as a medium for prospective members to deposit their money, which is a minimum of $20, into an account.

In past reports Econet dissociated its EcoCash platforms from being part of or supporting pyramid schemes.

According to legal experts, a pyramid scheme is a fraudulent investment plan that has fooled a lot of people worldwide.

They always fail because the profits rely on signing up new members to the scheme and eventually, every scheme runs out of fresh recruits.

In South Africa MMM Global scheme is under investigation as the Hawks have opened an inquiry into the system.

According to reports they were having slight challenges as the scheme is being run through the internet.

They have enlisted the help of the (policea��s) cybercrimes unit and the Financial Intelligence Centre and they are calling defrauded investors to come forward.

In 2013 businesspeople and civil servants in Bulawayo were left in a bind when their investments, worth billions, disappeared in a possible pyramid scheme after the collapse of Geozing Pawnbrokers, Perfect Shot Investments and McDowells to mention a few.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango said they were not aware of the schemea��s operations in the city.

a�?Ia��m not aware of the schemea��s operations in the city, I will have to speak to the Criminal Investigations Department Fraud Squad first,a�? said Inspector Simango.

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