Jane walks up to her colleague John, she informs him of this relatively new opportunity in Nigeria to make 30% per month return on any amount he contributes and encourages him to join. John’s interest is piqued, he wants to know more, Jane talks more about this opportunity “MMM” she explains it is a “Global Mutual Aid Fund”, a “Social Financial Network”; an avenue for people “Providing Help” to people “Getting Help”, she goes on to talk about “Mavros”, the MMM community and the possibility of getting higher returns if he refers other people or if he transacts in Bitcoin. She finally shows him evidence of the previous month’s payment and her plans to invest more money the following month and encourages him to join.
John is excited, it sounds too good to be true so he decides to confirm this from his old friend James, James concurs, and tells him he had also joined two months earlier, taken out his capital and now re-invests only the profit. John is convinced, but he decides to do a final search on Google, he finds the following facts on Wikipedia.
The company was established in Russia in 1989 and the name “MMM” was taken from the first letters of the three founders’ surnames.
In the years that followed MMM tried to do several businesses unsuccessfully.
In 1994, MMM created a successful Ponzi scheme, however, 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.
In the aftermath at least 50 investors, having lost all of their money, committed suicide.
MMM declared bankruptcy on September 22, 1997.
One of the founders Sergei Mavrodi, with the help of a distant relative in the US, 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.
Mavrodi was found and arrested in 2003. 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. He later went on to creating yet another pyramid scheme called MMM-2011.
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.
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).
In 2016, MMM launched a website targeting the Nigerian audience.
In August 2016, the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission declared MMM a ponzi scheme and advised Nigerians to distance themselves from the scheme.
John now understands that this MMM will eventually fold up sooner or later so he carefully weighs his options……
If successful, he would get 30% return. No other investment opportunity will give him such. If he survives the first month, he could take out his capital and keep on reinvesting the profits, in the same style as James. He could refer others to join and hence make extra returns.
If he goes the same path as Jane continuously reinvesting his capital and profits, he will eventually lose all his money whenever MMM folds up. There could be deductions in the returns altering the risk reward ratio.
The biggest concern however, is the lifespan of the scheme, how long will it be before MMM-Nigeria closes shop and turns to another country? how long will it run before the Nigerian SEC or some other regulatory body intervenes to halt the scheme? one month? one year? only time will tell.