MMM Accounts Frozen: LASEMA Alerts on 112 Emergency Line

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(Last Updated On: 2016-12-14)

Oluwatosin Lamidi

The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) advised has various families to be vigilant and call the 112 emergency line in case of any suspected sucidal mission from suscribers and investors of a ponzi scheme populalrly called MMM.

This followed the MMM’s management announced restriction of its subscribers from withdrawal on Tuesday citing government action and end of the year rush.

LASEMA in a tweet which drew its attention to possible suicidal mission after crashed specualation of the MMM scheme.

On the LASEMA’s twiter, the agency directed families and friends of subscribers to put call through to 112 once discovery or suspicion of such mission in any of the state axis.

Meanwhile, MMM Nigeria tweeted over the scheme’s rumoured crash and refuted speculated report across the country, clearifying that, the scheme’s management had only frezed investors accesses to accounts and operations, to enable rectify issues abond withdrawal and panicking.

According to it, the one month freezing of confirmed Mavros is a step to ensure the sustainability and stability of the MMM Nigeria system and there is no better time to PH than now when you can earn 50% more of your amount of PH. There is nothing to worry about.”

“While your Mavro is in one month Freezing it continues to grow so there is nothing to be worried about. Just continue to PH to earn 50% more.”

According to information on MMM Nigeria website, about over 3million Nigerians are currently participating in the scheme.

It could be recalled that the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria had warned Nigerians to decist from the scheme because it not a genieu business.

Also, On Wikipedial and other reliable websitres, МММ was a Russian company that perpetrated one of the world’s largest ponzi schemes of all time, in the 1990s.By different estimates from 5 to 40 million people lost up to $10 billion.

According to available information, MMM was established in 1989 by Sergei Mavrodi,  his brother Vyacheslav Mavrodi, and Olga Melnikova. The name of the company was taken from the first letters of the three founders’ surnames.

Initially, the company imported computers and office equipment. In January 1992, tax police accused MMM of tax evasion, leading to the collapse of MMM-bank, and causing the company to have difficulty obtaining financing to support its operations.

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Faced with difficulties in funding its foreign trade, the company switched to the financial sector. It offered American stocks to Russian investors, but met with little success. Later, MMM-Invest was created for the purpose of collecting vouchers during privatisation. This effort was similarly unsuccessful.

Through the sources, it was learnt that MMM created its successful Ponzi scheme in 1994 and that the company started attracting money from private investors, promising annual returns of up to one thousand percent.

It is unclear whether a Ponzi scheme was Mavrodi’s initial intention, in as much as such extravagant returns might have been possible during the Russian hyperinflation in such commerce as import-export. MMM grew rapidly.

In February 1994, report emerged that the company reported dividends of 1,000%, and started an aggressive TV ad campaign and that since the shares were not quoted on any stock exchange and the company itself determined the share price, it maintained a steady price growth of thousands of percent annually, leading the public to believe its shares were a safe and profitable investment.

Beside shares, the sources discosed that there was an important factor in the scheme’s success, such as was word of mouth, but most of the company’s success came from its extremely aggressive ad campaign, which appealed to the general public by using ordinary characters that viewers could identify with.

“The most famous of them, a folk hero of early 1994, was Lyonya Golubkov”.

From Wikipedia page, it was published that another notable marketing effort was a giveaway of free Metro trips to all Moscow citizens on a particular day. MMM also was one of the first well-known companies in Russia with a logotype and slogans (Flying from shadow to the light and others).

It publised that  the company peak, it was taking in more than 100 billion rubles (about 50 million USD) each day from the sale of its shares to the public thus, the cashflow turnover at the MMM central office in Moscow was so high that it could not be estimated.

According to Wikipedia, regular publication in the media of the rising MMM share price led President Boris Yeltsin to issue a decree in June 1994 prohibiting financial institutions from publicising their expected income.

The success of MMM in attracting investors led to the creation of other similar companies, including Tibet, Chara, Khoper-Invest, Selenga, Telemarket, and Germes. All of these companies were characterised by aggressive television advertising and extremely high promised rates of return. One company promised annual returns of 30,000%.

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It publishsed that on July 22, 1994, the police closed the offices of MMM for tax evasion. For a few days the company attempted to continue the scheme, but soon ceased operations. At that point, Invest-Consulting, one of the company’s subsidiaries, owed more than 50 billion rubles in taxes (USD 26 million), and MMM itself owed between 100 billion and 3 trillion rubles to the investors (from USD 50 million to USD 1.5 billion).

In the aftermath at least 50 investors, having lost all of their money, committed suicide.

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“Several organisations of deceived investors made efforts to recover their lost investments, but Sergei Mavrodi manipulated their indignation and directed it at the government. In August 1994 Mavrodi was arrested for tax evasion”.

“However, he was soon elected to the Russian State Duma, with the support of the deceived investors. He argued that the government, not MMM, was responsible for people losing their money, and promised to initiate a pay-back program’; and amount ultimately paid back was minuscule compared to the amount owed”.

The site exposed that in October 1995, the Duma cancelled Mavrodi’s right to immunity as a deputy and after it, in 1996, he tried to run  Russia’s presidency, but most of the signatures he received were rejected. MMM declared bankruptcy on September 22, 1997.

While it was believed that Sergei Mavrodi left Russia and moved to the United States, it is possible that he stayed in Moscow, using his money to change apartments regularly and employ a group of former special agents.

Mavrodi was found and arrested in 2003 and while in custody, Mavrodi was given, until January 31, 2006 to read the documents in his fraud case against himself (The criminal case consisted of 650 volumes, each 250-270 pages long).

At the end of April 2007, Mavrodi was convicted of fraud, and given a sentence of four and a half years. Since he had already spent over four years in custody, he was released less than a month later, on May 22, 2007.

Unfuntuately, the MMM scandal led to increased regulation of the Russian stock market, but the legacy of the fraud led many to become extremely suspicious of any joint stock companies.

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With the help of a distant relative he started Stock Generation Ltd., another pyramid scheme based around trading non-existent companies’ stocks in a form of the “stock exchange game” on the company’s site, stockgeneration.com.

Despite a bold-letter warning on the main page that the site was not a real stock exchange, between 20,000 and 275,000 people, according to various estimates, fell for the promised 200% returns and lost their money. According to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, losses of victims were at least USD 5.5 million.

From same Wikipedia, it was published that in 2015 MMM began operating in South Africa with the same business model as MMM-2011, claiming a 30% per month” return through a social financial network.The group was identified as a possible pyramid scheme by the National Consumer Commission and accounts of clients were later frozen by Capitec Bank.

In response to mounting criticism and official investigations by state authorities in 2016 supporters of the South African MMM scheme staged a protest march in Johannesburg, and has started up again late November 2016.

Meanwhile, in November 2015, MMM launched a website targeting the Nigerian audience, also claiming a 30 per cent month return including other acquirable bonuses.

According to report on the Wikipedia, the entity was self-described as a mutual aid fund where ordinary people help each other and 2.4 million people had signed up by late 2016, with the country’s unemployed as primary targets. Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has confirmed that they are monitoring the scheme.

On the 13th of December, it announced the freezing of all members’ accounts due to systems overload and the negative attention brought on by the Government and mass media.

In January 2016, the Chinese government banned MMM on the grounds that it is a pyramid scheme, (Ponzi scheme), and it is not registered in the country (and as a fraudulent scheme cannot be registered).

 

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