How Investors Lost $100m To MMM Ponzi Scheme
By Dipo Olowookere
If there is one scheme that is spreading in Africa like wildfire, then it is no other than the MMM Global Ponzi scheme that emanated from Russia in the 1990s.
Those who have wholeheartedly embraced this programme are from African countries facing economic downturns.
Zimbabwe and Nigeria have been the two main countries in Africa where the scheme is gaining more grounds.
Not too long ago, reports from Zimbabwe indicated that the MMM scheme had crashed, causing thousands of investors grieving over loss of their money.
The Nigerian government, through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have warned citizens not to invest in the programme, but these warning have largely been ignored.
It was the same story in Zimbabwe, where the country’s apex bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, warned its citizens not the put their money in the scheme.
According to The Independent UK, the MMM Ponzi scheme was established by former Russian politician, Sergey Mavrodi, who went on the run when the original MMM, standing for Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox, “collapsed in the late 1990s, losing investors an estimated $100m.”
It reports that, “On its website, MMM Global unashamedly advertises itself as a scheme whereby new members ‘assist’ older members by paying a fee to join. Older members are allowed to withdraw money after a certain period of time, and receive bonuses for encouraging others to sign up.
“Mavrodi himself is reported to have gone into hiding after a separate entity designed to reward investors with the cryptocurrency bitcoin – dubbed the ‘Republic of Bitcoin’ – folded in April this year.”
It was also reported that a criminal investigation has been launched into MMM Global branch in South Africa, after a probe by the National Consumer Commission “found something” to suggest the scheme was acting illegally.
It was gathered that Zimbabweans started to notice changes when investors reported being unable to withdraw any funds earlier this month.
One of them told The Herald newspaper that, “When we started putting our funds in the scheme one could get assistance within seven days but things later changed to 14 days and when we were shut out the waiting period was 21 days.
“What it simply means is that the number of people in need of help has outnumbered the number of people joining. Right now we have nowhere to get our money which we invested.”
However, some members of MMM Global across Africa have continued to defend its legitimacy, publishing screenshots showing withdrawals as proof the scheme pays out.
An anonymous member told business website Fin24 that, “MMM honestly tells people how it really works and do not promise people any return on the investments.
“As a donation programme, how is it possible to lose your donation? In MMM people ask each other to help them. It depends on the members themselves to maintain the continuation of the process of the provision of help to each other.”
Additional information used in this story was sourced from The Independent UK