By Segun Oduenwu
As the economic recession continues to bite harder, Nigerians are seeking succor from MMM (Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox).
The “Wonder Bank” scheme which promises 30 per cent Return on Investment (ROI) after 30 days is really trending and more and more people are investing their money daily.
But before you decide to join the ‘MMM gang’ and invest your money in the scheme, here are things you need to know.
1. How it started and morphed into a Ponzi scheme
It was set up in 1989 by three Russians Sergei Mavrodi, his brother Vyacheslav Mavrodi, and Olga Melnikova. The name MMM was taken from the first letters of the three founders’ surnames. Initially, the company imported computers and office equipment. MMM was accused of tax evasion in January 1992 which led to the collapse of MMM-bank, making it difficult for the company to obtaining financing support for its operations.
МММ global was a Russian company that perpetrated one of the world’s largest Ponzi schemes of all time, in the 1990s. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam which promises investors a large profit at little to no risk. The scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors. In 1994, MMM morphed into a successful Ponzi scheme.
2. 50 investors committed suicide in 1994 after it crashed
The police closed the offices of MMM for tax evasion on July 22, 1994. The company tried to continue the scheme but the business shut. In the aftermath at least 50 investors who lost all of their money committed suicide.
3. The CEO is a convicted fraudster
Seigei Marvrodi is a convicted fraudster who had run similar fraud schemes in Russia. He was arrested in August 1994 for tax evasion. In 2007, a Russian court found him guilty of defrauding 10,000 investors out of 110 million rubles (4.3 million US dollars). He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
4. The current MMM Bitcoin version emerged around 2011
Following Mavrodi’s release from prison, he launched another pyramid scheme called MMM-2011 in January 2011. He asked investors to buy so-called Mavro currency units. However, in May 2012, he froze the operation and announced that there would be no more payouts.
5. It began operations in South Africa in 2015
With the same business model as MMM-2011, it started operations in South Africa, promising a 30 per cent per month return through a social financial network. A number of South African banks are shutting down accounts they believe could be linked to MMM. In May, Capitec bank reportedly closed 2000 bank accounts linked to the MMM scheme.
6. MMM platform in Zimbabwe crashed
In September, reports surfaced that the scheme had crashed in Zimbabwe and thousands of people lost their investment. It was later reported that it did not crash but the reward was slashed from 100 per cent to 20 per cent.
7. It has been banned in China
The Chinese government banned MMM in January 2016 on the grounds that it is a pyramid scheme, (Ponzi scheme). According to the government, it is not registered in the country (and it cannot be registered as it is a fraudulent scheme).
8. Launched in 2016 in Nigeria
MMM launched a website targeting the Nigerian audience in July 2016. Since its launch, a good massive percentage of Nigerians have invested in the scheme and more people are still joining.
9. There comes a time when it will crash
Businesses that fall under Ponzi scheme often run until it fails to achieve the returns expected. Once investment slows down, the scheme shuts down. Most of the time, the promoter vanishes into thin air carting away all the investment money.
Many Nigerians will continue to defend the scheme and accuse the government of a hidden agenda to stop their means of income. However, people should be wise while investing in business ventures that are too good to be true.
MMM gang would always say “MMM pays”, “MMM-Making More Money”. It is paying at the moment but for how long?
- Segun Oduenwu, is Journalist based in Lagos.