AT least US$32 million has been lost to scammers, who have combined to rip off more than 10 000 Zimbabweans of their savings, using Ponzi Schemes in the past three years.
In July, this year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit was forced to issue a warning to the public over the proliferation of Ponzi and Pyramid schemes in the country.
The warning came after the founder and suspected mastermind of an online Ponzi scheme called E-creator, Zhao Jiaotong (39), in which hundreds of people lost their hard-earned money in the pyramid scheme, was arrested.
Two years ago, authorities revealed that at least 10 000 Zimbabweans lost an estimated US$30 million to Ponzi Schemes in that year alone.
“At least 10 000 complainants reportedly lost over US$30 million between them,” said national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
“We have handled some 892 such cases involving thousands of complainants.
“The scammers quickly disappear after swindling the unsuspecting investors.
“Millions of dollars were lost, some lost houses while others committed suicide upon discovering they would have been duped. We have handled suicide cases related to Ponzi schemes”
The scams centred around these ventures:
l Beven Capital, was involved in a US$17 823 000 scam of 2 000 people.
l Bitcoin Interchange Zimbabwe where 43 people reported being swindled of US$765 935.
l Delight Credit was investigated after investors lost US$100 000
According to Interpol’s Online Scams report, Africa loses over US$500 million of its GDP per annum to online scams such as email scams, romance fraud, social media scams, malware attacks, and so on.
So, what is happening elsewhere in the region?
l SOUTH AFRICA
In September this year, a South African Ponzi scheme was ordered to pay US$1.7 billion in restitution to thousands of victims in the United States.
A federal judge handed down the restitution order against Mirror Trading International (MTI), a bitcoin trading scheme.
The order described MTI as an “international fraudulent multilevel marketing scheme” that broke a host of US laws.
The ruling was signed by representatives of MTI’s liquidators in South Africa, who have been trying to track down thousands of missing bitcoin for the past two years.
MTI, which was head-quartered in Stellenbosch, collapsed in December 2020 after it abruptly halted payments to members.
The Ecoplexus scam, which purported to invest victims’ funds in products of Ecoplexus, a real United States company which specialises in the development, design, construction, and financing of renewable energy projects in the US, and key international markets, ripped off hundreds of people in Botswana
Reports indicated that the total amount of money lost in this Ponzi scheme ran into tens of millions of pula.