Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM) Cooperation, the Russian Ponzi scheme that had many Nigerians’ monies trapped about two and a half years ago, is back.
The financial pyramid scheme reopened its operation in Nigeria in the past six months, according to BusinessDay findings, and participants are being offered between 30 percent and 50 percent returns per month. The administrators said their “goal is to destroy the world’s unjust financial system”.
MMM Cooperation is a Ponzi scheme because it lures participants and pays high returns to earlier participants with funds from more recent participants. The scheme leads greedy victims to believe that returns are coming from other means, and they remain unaware that other participants are the source of funds.
This is coming at a time many Nigerians are reeling in extreme poverty. The pyramid scheme targets mostly poor Nigerians as well as middle-income earners who have the get-rich-quick instinct.
About 91.16 million Nigerians were living in extreme poverty as of February 13, 2019, according to the World Poverty Clock, created by Vienna-based World Data Lab.
The World Bank classifies a person to be living in extreme poverty if he/she lives below the poverty line of $1.90, which translates to N693.5 per day.
Over 100,000 Nigerians have keenly reentered the MMM scheme as at the first-half (H1) of 2019. Most of the participants are staking up to a maximum limit of N2.5 million and a minimum of N1,000.
In MMM, participants see themselves “as a community of ordinary people, selflessly helping each other”, or a “kind of the Global Fund of mutual aid”.
How does this Ponzi scheme work? Participants declare their willingness to ‘Give Help’ and ‘Provide Help’. After that their account will be credited with so-called Mavro (internal currency of the system). The said Mavro’s amount will start to grow from the moment of deposit.
“The rate of growth can be slowly or rapidly, everything depends on you and your activity only. Calculation of growth occurs every day. The said sum in Mavro shows how much money the participants earn,” the Ponzi scheme said on its website.
“This is the first sprout of something new in the modern soulless and ruthless world of greed and hard cash. The goal here is not the money. The goal is to destroy the world’s unjust financial system. Financial Apocalypse! Before you join, be sure to be acquainted with our ideology,” it said.
In a warning statement on its official website, the scheme said, “MMM is not a bank, MMM does not collect your money, MMM is not an online business, high-yield investment programme (HYIP), investment or Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) programme. MMM is a community where people help each other.”
MMM said it gives “a technical basic programme, which helps millions of participants worldwide to find those who need help, and those who are ready to provide help for free”.
“All transferred Bitcoins to another participant are your help given by your own goodwill to another one, absolutely gratis. If you are completely confident and certain in your actions and make your mind to participate, we kindly ask you to study carefully all warnings and instructions first. In cases of any matter regarding the topic our online consultants are ready to help and answer all your questions,” it added.
In 2016, Christmas and New Year celebrations went sour for more than 3 million Nigerians who participated in the popular MMM Ponzi scheme as the promoters of the scheme suspended new payouts to subscribers.
The Lagos Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) had then issued suicide prevention notice and advised Lagos residents to dial 112 if anyone attempted suicide due to the MMM crash.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had also warned Nigerians about the MMM scheme. The House of Representatives, besides issuing a warning, had also ordered an investigation into the operation of the MMM scheme.
The administrators of MMM Cooperation in a June 26 note to the “friends of MMM family” seen by BusinessDay simply said, “It is past 6 months, and would like to thank all the participants of this family. Everything is going perfectly well, our system is safer every day, because the support of the participants cross all world borders.”
The message to the friends of MMM family further said that donations could be made “in your local currency, and also in crypto-coins (BTC, LTC, ETH)”.
“Actively participate in MMM and receive a high value over your aid. Never forget to do good deeds, help those who need it. You can change the colour of the world with kindness and love,” it said.
In March 2018, the founder of the MMM series of financial pyramid schemes, Sergei Mavrodi, died in Moscow. The former deputy of the Russian Duma (State Assembly) and one of the most prominent fraudsters in Russia’s modern history was 63 years old.
“This system will not end, it’s still the beginning. We are together fulfilling the desires of our deceased friend Sergey Mavrodi. I invite everyone to celebrate this half year together, and let everyone know that our first full year is approaching. The MMM Cooperation has already shown that it is a fair and honest system where the true ideology of mutual aid is applied,” MMM said in a recent statement.
“We are all welcome to the biggest help system, always have the great guiders, always have this administration, because it is honest and so, the success belongs to all of us,” it said.
MMM had ahead of its re-launch introduced Bitcoin, the popular crypto-currency, as part of its mode of payment.
MMM said it only regulates the process and nothing more, adding that all the money is distributed between the participants themselves through thousands and millions of accounts.
“The system completely belongs to people. Without fools! It is a real mutual aid fund, where ordinary people help each other. There is no central account, where all the money flows to (and where it can be easily stolen from. Participants transfer BITCOINS directly to each other, without intermediaries!” it stated.