Russian businessman Sergei Mavrodi, whose MMM pyramid scheme deprived millions of Russians of their savings in the 1990s, has died of a heart attack, according to Russia media.
Reports said the 62-year-old was rushed to the hospital late on March 25 with pain in his chest and died several hours later.
Mavrodi’s MMM financial pyramid was a typical Ponzi scheme in which earlier investors receive their profits from subsequent investors. Mavrodi promised returns of 20 percent to 75 percent a month, as well as lotteries and bonuses for investors.
As soon as the number of new clients stopped growing, the pyramid collapsed, causing huge financial losses for at least 10 million people, in some cases leaving them destitute.
In 1994, Mavrodi was elected as a lawmaker, a decision he later said was to ensure he received immunity from prosecution. In 1996, he lost his parliamentary mandate.
In 2007, a Moscow court found him guilty of financial fraud and sentenced him to 4 1/2 years in a penal colony.
In 2011, Mavrodi launched another pyramid scheme called MMM-2011, calling on investors to purchase so-called Mavro currency units in a bid to get rid of the “unfair” financial system. Some 15 months later, Mavrodi halted the project.
From 2011-16, Mavrodi launched Ponzi schemes under the MMM brand in India, China, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria.
In many of those countries, Mavrodi’s operations were subsequently shut down or suspended.
Aponzi investor identified as Ada Kole has died in Kubwa, a satellite town in the Federal Capital Territory after drinking insecticide following the crash of the MMM scheme.
The young man, whose wedding was rescheduled from December last year to May, 2017 reportedly died on Monday night following complications arising from the poison he took late last year.
Kole had reportedly invested about N750,000 in the scheme in November last year and was expecting to get his 30 per cent income when the MMM crashed and he lost his money.
A family source said Kole passed away after suffering from stomach complications as a result of the poison.
The source said, “Kole died yesterday (Monday) evening and his body has been deposited in a mortuary. He died from the complications he suffered from the poison he took last year. He had a terrible stomach ache and was rushed to the hospital where he died.”
Asked if the Benue State indigene was paid by the MMM before his demise, the source said, “No, he was not paid. In fact, he threatened to arrest his guider before the stomach upset returned last week and we rushed him to the hospital where he finally died,” he added.
It was gathered that his fiancée had been inconsolable since his passage.
Kole had earlier opened up on his predicament during a phone-in radio programme in Abuja last December where he admitted making profits from the scheme before it crashed.
He explained that he initially invested N20,000 and got 30 per cent interest few weeks later.
He said, “I came to Abuja from Benue few months back in preparation for my wedding and my friend introduced me to the MMM thing. He told me about the benefit involved, though I was a bit hesitant about it but he succeeded in convincing me to register under him.
“To be honest, I initially invested N20,000 into the scheme and I got 30 per cent the following month. The following month, I did N50,000 and I still got 30 per cent commission and my full investment back.”
Kole stated that he decided to increase his investment so he could make more money, but he apparently miscalculated.
He said. “This time, I believed it was real and I decided to increase my investment. Before then, my fiancée had warned me against it. So I went to my cooperative to obtain a loan and they gladly gave, thinking it was for my wedding.
“I put in N750k last month (November,2016) hoping it would yield 30 per cent income this month (December) only to wake up one morning to discover that my account has been suspended.”
The deceased had told his interviewer that he took the insecticide because he did not know how to tell his fiancée that he had lost the money for their wedding.
He added, “To be sincere, the best option I had then was to take my life, because I didn’t know how I was going to face my woman. I didn’t even know when I took the insecticide.”
The FCT police spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah said Kole’s death had yet to be reported to the police. (Punchng.com)
Paul Ukpabio/Nwanosike Onu, Awka/Odunayo Ogunmola,Ado Ekiti/Precious Dikewoha,Port Harcourt/Grace Obike,Abuja
Nigerian participants in the ponzi scheme, MMM, are losing patience with it, a week after resumption of service and promise to begin payment.
Although there was evidence yesterday that some participants had been paid ,thousands of others whose applications were yet to be attended have been venting their anger on the brains behind the scheme for the frustration in accessing their funds.
They rage, curse and threaten unrestrained on the MMM Help platform after unsuccessful attempts to get response to their many inquiries on the status of their investment.
Typical of the threat message is this seen yesterday on the MMM website: “Hello Mavrodi. You can’t eat my money and go like that. See, let me tell you Mavrodi:my father is a native doctor. I give you two weeks to pay my money or my father will kill you in that Russia.I’m ready to kill anybody including my guider and referral.Make una no play with me ooo…If you like joke with me.”
One Hayat Mohammed said: “I really need help. I provided help of 50,000, now I made a request to get help. The request was processed, but I’ve not being matched with another participant who will pay me. They won’t even pick my calls. So my money is lost, isn’t it? Last time I checked, this was supposed to be a platform where we would be able to tender our problems for solutions. I guess they don’t care anymore since participants have grown in population.”
Harrison Ita Etim posted: “I am still in the same shit too till today!”
Owhotemu Maryjane said: “What is really going on with MMM? If it’s gone you should let us the participants know. And why is that when someone wants to GH it will show or create error? You guys had a month to sort this out during the so-called break! So what then is this so called withdrawal limit that you are now talking about?”
From Santos Maemi came this: “To all Nigerians, please wake up. This is totally a scam. Don’t be blind!!!” while Christopher Chinedu said: “If I knew that this would happen, I shouldn’t have become a participant. Let’s admit we have lost our money. That is business I guess, lose or gain. Somebody has been matched with different people, four, to be precise and they have not paid him now, many days and months after. Hmmm so who is going to pay who? I think I have cried enough, it’s time for me to clean my eyes now and forget my N700,000. This is not my end.”
A cross section of participants interviewed in Ado Ekiti fear that their money is gone.
Tope Aladeniyi, who said he was to be paid a day before the scheme was shut down in December, said he learnt some people received little payments, but he was yet to be matched for payment.
“At the moment, I have not been matched, and last year we were told that once the scheme resumed on January 14, they would be the ones to release those who were ready to be matched, even if you were due for payment,” Aladeniyi said.
Another participant, Sola Abidakun, who provided help in November and asked for help on January 13, said he was matched with four persons but only two paid.
“I was only paid N4000 and N10,000, leaving two failed transactions waiting to be rematched,” he said.
A top guider of the scheme, Bode Wilson, while explaining the reason for delayed payment, said that the number of people requesting for payment was higher than the number providing help.
“They have started matching people, but there will be delay in payment, especially for those that pledged huge amount of money. There should be enough money in the system before everybody can get paid. However, I’m sure we will all get paid”, Wilson said.
A lawyer, Femi Oyeniyi, warned that participants in the scheme may not be able to recover any money lost in the scheme because of the anonymity the business is shrouded with.
Oyeniyi said: “I doubt who do you sue, you don’t see the person you are doing business with, you can only sue the person you see and it is only the person you see physically that you can do business with.”
A broadcaster,Carol Oladeinde, said: “I have a relation who did the MMM thing and was benefitting from it before they went off. I do not think that we should condemn the financial scheme (MMM) because a lot of people have benefited from it. I am into another networking stuff. I am a member of another one and it is working.
“Yes, I will continue with mine because I know what I am benefiting from it. I can’t go anywhere to borrow money so if I am involved in a financial scheme where I see someone give me indirect loan and even increase my opportunity to get more, why won’t I continue?
Martins Okafor, a participant investor in Awka still believes in the scheme.
He told The Nation that those who have not received any payment were those who have not been matched for payments, especially those invested shortly before the break.
Another investor, Miss Blessing Nwankwo, was also optimistic that her investment would not be lost
She said she was willing to forfeit N10,000 of the N20,000 she invested, adding that she had no regrets whatsoever.
Mrs. Chiamaka Udu, a participant in Port Harcourt, said: “ We thank God that we are able to be alive to see today.
“The last time when you came to my house to talk to me, I told you I was going to die, but I think there is hope. What is happening now is that those of us with big funds are not being paid now. They told us that we should wait; that after providing help for those with small amount they will consider us.”
Mr. Geoffrey Nnamdi said: “My brother, I ‘m yet to understand these people. Though they are paying some, when I clicked help they rejected my request, saying I should wait but I need this money.
Another customer, Mr. Davies Onyema reacted this way, “Please, I don’t want to say anything, I almost committed suicide last time. I was very happy when I heard the news of their coming back. I have entered forty days of praying and fasting over my condition with MMM. How can they return and tell me that they are not going to provide help to me, so when are they going to provide help?” (The Nation)
Still smarting from the abrupt suspension of the most popular ponzi scheme in Nigeria, Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM), many desperate Nigerians may have resorted to similar schemes in their bid to get quick and mouthwatering returns promised by the operators.
Over three million Nigerians who subscribed to MMM scheme were thrown into panic and confusion when the operators of the scheme announced a temporary freezing of the scheme, citing heavy workload on the platform and negative attacks from the government and media.
The message, which assured subscribers of its return on January 14, 2017, promised to pay every subscriber as soon as the suspension on the scheme is lifted.
But while uncertainties continue to trail the return of the scheme as promised by the operators, findings by Sunday Sun indicate that many Nigerians have signed up for similar ponzi schemes which, like MMM, lure subscribers with quick and mouthwatering returns.
One of the ponzi schemes some desperate Nigerians now subscribe to is Ultimate Cycler. This is a money-doubling set-up, which promises larger returns when user ‘A’ signs up with the sum of N12,500 to a fellow member, known as an upliner. When the deposit or ‘donation’ is approved, the Ultimate Cycler system registers four other users under user ‘A’, who then pay N12,500 to User ‘A’ resulting in N50,000. Basically, User ‘A’ pays N12, 500 and gets N50,000 in return.
When User ‘A’ gets four users under him or her, the system upgrades User ‘A’ to grade 2 level. At this level, User ‘A’ is expected to pay N25,000 from his or her N50,000 gain to another grade two member. After which the system automatically puts 16 people under user ‘A’ who will then pay user ‘A’ N25,000 each. At this stage, User ‘A’ gains N400,000.
A similar ponzi scheme many Nigerians now sign up for is iCharity Club, which is a member-to-member donation platform for members to help other members in a systematic way. By using the platform, members can give and receive donations from each other.
The scheme, which has a semblance of MMM in operation, requires a member to make a donation first, after which he or she is eligible to receive donations from other members.
The scheme operates on 10 different grades. At grade 1, a new member is required to donate $20 alongside four other subscribers. The total sum ($100) is given to a member who is expected to reciprocate the gesture until every member benefits and progresses to grade 2, where the donation is raised to $40 per subscriber. At this stage 25 members are expected to contribute $1,000 ($40 per participant) to the beneficiary.
The amount payable at each of the stages increases just as donors increase in multiples of five. A subscriber on grade 10, which is the highest grade donates maximum of $1,670 alongside 9,765,624 to others, and receives $16,308,593,750.
This scheme allows its subscriber to choose who he or she wishes to pay their contributions to. However, the ‘help’ is provided on peer-to-peer basis.
iCharity allows its users to decide who they choose to pay to, unlike in MMM where the system matches one subscriber with another.
There is also the E-Cooperative. This scheme operates on a peer- to-peer payment platform where members pay each other.
Operators of the scheme claim there is no central account where money is paid and disbursed, rather, members pay directly to each other in order of uplines and downlines
Similar in operation to iCharity, subscribers to E-Cooperative operate at four different stages. At stage 1, an interested person registers with N1,000 and gets paired automatically with another member from any part of the country to whom he pays N1,000.
Upon the confirmation of payment by the recipient, the member is matched by the system to receive payment of N1,000 from four other members, making a total of N4,000.
After receiving the N4,000, the member gets upgraded to level 2 and will be required to pay N 2,500 (from the N4,000 received from level 1) to a member on level 2. When the payment is confirmed, the member is matched to receive N2,500 from 16 persons, which amounts to N40,000.
At level 3, the member pays N5,000 (from the 40,000 naira received from level 2) to another member. When the payment is confirmed, he or she is automatically matched to receive N5000 from 64 persons, which amounts to N320,000.
At level 4, which is the final stage, the member will be required to pay N10,000 (from the 320,000 received from level 3) to another member he or she is matched with. When the payment is confirmed, the member will be automatically matched to receive 10,000 naira from 256 persons, making a total of N2,560,000.
Another popular ponzi scheme in the country is the Givers Forum. According to the information on the website, the forum is a community where people help one another to own houses, buy brand new cars, acquire quality education and do well in life.
Any interested subscriber becomes a member after registering on its site, http://www.giversforum.com. The subscriber is provided with login details that enables the person to access a personal account known as Personal Office.
Upon the completion of the first step, the member is then expected to declare his or her willingness to donate (“Provide Help”), after which the account would be rewarded with the same amount pledged. The money starts growing from the moment of offering at the rate of 10 per cent per week with other bonuses. This sum shows how much a member can request for after a week of making the pledge and paying out to the receiving participant.
For instance, if a member announced the willingness to assist with N100,000. He will be rewarded in his Personal Office with N100,000, which will start growing immediately. A week later, this increases to N110,000 and in a month, it becomes N140,000. Accordingly, the member will be able to request assistance for N110,000 in the first week, N120,000 in the 2nd week, N130,000 in the 3rd week and N140,000 in the 4th week. All this are after his pledge might have been transferred and confirmed.
Requesting for or providing help comes to the member in his or her personal office. However, failure to honour the request within 48 hours during the week and 96 hours on weekends, the defaulting member is removed from the system and will not be able to register with the same name any longer.
Another popular ponzi scheme in Nigeria is My Duty. This scheme simply requires a participant to send an online link to as many people as possible and have each of them do same. The sum of 15 US dollars is credited to the person’s account for each click he or she gets from people online.
Other notable similar schemes with promises of higher returns for subscribers include Money Rift, Stable Power, Earntech, Analysis Human, Bitbox, Capitaller, e-Cyclix, Traffic Power Line, Money Grows, First In First Out, Cube Assets, Reliable Coin, Hyip-a, Unorex, True Bit, Invest Villa, Synvestment, Top Bit Hourly, Margin King, Prisma Invest, Coin Time, Icycle365, Winterstory, Blue Chip Lab, Stance Coin, Flash Coin, Rempay, Biteminer, BetX Siriuss Copy, Doubler Bitcoin, Coin Drill Bot, Steady Income, Incredible 5, Lundin Mining, Eleon Live, Fast Funds, GetHelpWorldwide, Get2Help, Mac, Elite Givers, Mzansihelp, among others.
The proliferation of ponzi schemes in Nigeria and the rate Nigerians subscribe to these schemes have, however, been blamed on the inability of the government to ameliorate the suffering of the people as recession bites harder.
Speaking with Sunday Sun reporter, an online business expert, Aanu Ajewole, said Nigerians would continue to patronise ponzi schemes until the government was able to mitigate the effect of the harsh economy on the people.
“It is no news that a lot of people can’t meet their basic needs and most of them feel the best way to stay afloat is to invest their little available resources on ponzi schemes,” said Ajewole.
A subscriber to one of the ponzi schemes, Gbenga Akinwummi, who described the scheme as a lifesaver, also blamed the rush by Nigerians for the schemes on economic recession.
“What some call ponzi scheme is what others refer to as lifesaving scheme. The country, at this point of our historical development, is facing the worst economic challenge, no thanks to recession. The scheme has been a major lifesaver for many Nigerians. Though there are many sponsored adverts and write ups against the scheme, you can’t blame the participants for taking such risks; the government doesn’t have a better option,”
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, prior to the abrupt suspension of MMM had warned Nigerians against dealing with money institutions that are not insured by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
The apex bank through its Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okoroafor, had said the CBN could not guarantee the unregistered institutions, insisting that when depositors lose money to them, the bank would not be able to help them.
“At times like this when the economy has suffered some decline, Nigerians should be very careful with those they deal with. Any institution that is not licensed by the CBN to accept deposits should not be given money to keep under any guise. These people always come with very interesting propositions. These are fraudsters who are just out there to collect people’s money and run away as soon as they hit their target. There is no insurance because the NDIC does not even protect them against such risks when they occur,” the CBN said.
As apprehension over the fate of millions of participants in the Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox or MMM mounts in Nigeria after accounts were frozen, information emerged that some individuals might have become far richer than anyone can expect.
Some, it was learnt, have been made millionaires by the platform, but in the case of few others like one of MMM’s top men, Chuddy Ugorji, the gain may have run into billions.
Ugorji, who is the number one guider on the platform, has been the subject of different speculations, some of which claimed he might have made more than N1bn over the last one year.
Social media pictures of him on luxury boat rides or at luxury spots might have a lot to do with his new found wealth.
On the MMM website, Ugorji shared his testimonies showing that he got millions of naira from people who had “provided help” to him.
A screenshot even showed that Ugorji got up to N6m at a point.
MMM runs in a peer to peer donation system, in which you “provide help” by donating money to another participant and “get help” by requesting for money after some days with a 30 per cent increase in the initial donation made.
Ugorji was said to have joined MMM’s global platform in 2015 and has been its spirited promoter in Nigeria ever since.
There is no doubt that since becoming MMM’s top man, life has not been the same for the Imo State indigene, who describes himself as an online entrepreneur and businessman on his Facebook account.
Recently,photographs from his recent wedding, which took place at the Elshadai Covenant Church, Abule-Egba, Lagos, emerged online, given the first peek at the life of an individual, who leaves one in no doubt that the platform has been wonderful to him.
His wife, Chiamaka, who has also been a spirited defender of MMM’s credibility, is a graduate of the Imo State University and an indigene of the same state as Ugorji. Before her husband released a statement on the fears over MMM on Friday, Chimaka had consistently written on her Facebook, assuring participants that their investments were safe.
Ugorji’s wedding was attended by celebrities and other guiders of MMM. The apparently lavish weddingwas MMM-themed with guests wearing MMM-crested sashes, while even the couple’s cake bore the MMM logo. To cap the royalty of the wedding, entertainment at the reception was provided by the Limpopo crooner, Kcee.
The important position Ugorji occupies in the MMM community came to light when he revealed on his Facebook wall that MMM guiders presented him with a brand Hyundai Crete SUV as a wedding gift.
“Thank you to our wonderful family, friends and great MMM community for your love, support and generosity. Our wedding day was indeed made so much memorable because of your presence and your blessings, MMM Guiders surprised me with a brand new Hyundai Crete SUV Jeep as a wedding gift may God bless you all for me,” he said on Facebook on November 13.
Ugorji, a son of a reverend, is a graduate of one of India’s distant learning universities, Karnataka State Open University, where he studied Business Administration.
Despite refutations by Ugorji, some Nigerians have suggested that he actually brought MMM to Nigeria.
A Twitter user, Amadi Noel, tweeted ago about an alleged deal between Ugorji and a Philipino millionaire.
Ugorji himself had shared a photograph he took with a woman he called Ritta on Facebook in January.
The photograph was apparently taken in Dubai, where he allegedly finalised his deal on MMM Nigeria.
“With Ritta my partner and leader, a great woman and multi-millionaire. Am blessed (sic) to work with such a successful leader because success is contentious,” Ugorji captioned the photograph.
But in a statement he shared on his Facebook wall on Friday, Ugorji, denied having any deal with any Philipino, explaining that MMM Nigeria is run by Russian, Sergei Mavrodi and controlled in Russia.
“The MMM website is being managed in Russia by their control and supervisory team .They are responsible for every decision made,like pairing of participants to provide help and get help,resolving issues on the platform. I have never been to Philippines,the stories about going to the Philippines are untrue,” he said.
However, many sceptics say those who have money in the system should probably not hold their breath.
But Ugorji laid the blame for the panic about MMM following the freeze on accounts onthe doorstep of the media.
“Some ignorant Nigerians who don’t understand what MMM is all about have been brainwashed by the information broadcasted (sic) by the media and social networks. Bloggers who get paid for promoting rumour, when ignorant Nigerians click on their blogs, Google Ad Sense pays them per click. Hence they seized this opportunity to enrich themselves,” he said in his statement.
However, it is not just the high-level position of Ugorji in MMM that came to light over the last one week, there are claims that he might have made over N1bn in the last one year from MMM.
But he said that “(I) am not the administrator of MMM but one of the top guiders of this great community.”
As if to address the issue of how much he had made from the platform, he later states, “every guider in the MMM community has a limit to withdrawal and I have never made withdrawals above my limit.”
However, he maintained that the freeze on Mavro (MMM version of credits), was just a measure to prevent the actual collapse feared by participants.
According to him, that MMM has collapsed is far from the truth.
He said, “The reason for this measure is evident. The system needs to prevent any problems that might arise during this festive season and this measure will be cancelled once the festive season comes to an end.
Frozen of mavros does not mean MMM has stopped operations or crashed rather the system has adopted this measure to avoid any mishaps. The support system are working on issues to enhance the effectiveness of the community.”
But it is unclear whether his statement has done much to restore confidence of Nigerians in the platform. Some say all the participants need to learn as lesson is to look at how the scheme fared in other countries.
An audio message circulated by one of the ‘guiders’ in the scheme known as Alpha Romeo, indicates that at least three million Nigerians are participating in the scheme, a fact that puts in focus how massive the impact of an eventual collapse would be to Nigerians.
To put the impact in context, a Facebook user, Peter Sunday, shared a personal experience of the reaction of a policeman to the action taken by MMM administrators.
He said “We need to form prayer team to pray against suicide because of this MMM halt o. This is real. I entered a vehicle with a Mopol (mobile police) man who had been on duty since Friday and he was not aware of the MMM freeze.
“He overheard the driver and one of the passengers talking about MMM crash. All of a sudden he screamed ‘Haaaaaah! MMM crash? Haaaah. I dash money dem keep for my hand, I take put for MMM oooooooh. I am dead.’ The Mopol man then cocked his gun.”
Compared to Nigeria’s over three million participants, when MMM Zimbabwe collapsed few months ago, only about 66,000 participants fell victim. Still, it generated a nationwide heartache as many had sunk their life savings into the scheme.
A report by a Zimbabwean news website, TechZim, drew a comparison between the way the platform collapsed in the country and what is happening in Nigeria.
“In Zimbabwe, the first sign of MMM Zimbabwe coming to a halt was when the Reserve Bank effectively distanced itself from any activity outside of its regulatory scope. They were powerless to either stop MMM Zimbabwe or help those who could potentially be affected by its subsequent demise. Like in Nigeria, government agencies in Zimbabwe condemned the scheme at all fronts.
“This made a lot of MMM Zimbabwe participants wonder what exactly was going on to have made the Reserve Bank come out and say they have nothing to do with MMM, confidence still remained but eyebrows started to get raised.”
TechZim reports that rumours of a possible system crash instigated a wave of panic withdrawals which led to a pressure in the system forcing the administrators to reduce the worth of Mavro by 80 per cent. It started in April 2016 with the reduction in the Mavro growth rate from 50 per cent to 30 per cent and on to 20 per cent. Growth rate offered by MMM Nigeria is currently 30 per cent.
At the end of the day, the amount of PHs (Provide Helps)could not meet up with the GHs (Get Helps). That was the final straw for MMM Zimbabwe.
Almost every social media space in Nigeria currently hosts arguments for and against MMM. Many genuinely believe that the freezing of accounts was a step in the right direction considering the massive cashing out (or ‘GHing’ in MMM-Speak) for the festive period, which might collapse the system.
But others have said the January reopening would not happen considering what happened in other countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, where the scheme has collapsed.
A South African, ThendoStivo, who shared his views on Facebook, said those expecting that the freeze on Mavros (MMM credits) would be lifted in January should probably not hold their breath.
‘’You should have learned from your brothers and sisters here in South Africa. Our old Mavro money is gone as we speak and MMM is at silence as we speak (sic) so watch out for this Ponzi scheme, I have also learned my lesson here in South Africa. But at least it is not too much money that I lost (sic),” he posted on Facebook.
When MMM collapsed in South Africa, the administrators also blamed it on the panic orchestrated by untrusting media in the country. In fact, they accused the media of “persecuting” the platform. (Punchng.com)