Outcry as MMM returns with ‘strange, new’ rules

Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox, (MMM), a popular money-spinning site that froze accounts of a reported three million participants in Nigeria finally unfroze them on Friday, 24 hours earlier than the date it had announced.
However, fresh anxieties trailed the development when many members claimed to have invested much funds logged into their accounts and found out that even as their investments have matured for payment, they still have difficulty getting paired with other participants to pay them.
And that is a fact. Confirming this on its website, MMM founder, Sergey Mavrodi, posted that there is now a new structure between the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ investors.  Excerpts of the post read: “As the system is socially oriented, we will make paybacks to the poor and the economically disadvantaged in the first place: it means to the members with small PH amounts (poor investors). The richer can wait. Moreover, we’ve warned you repeatedly to only provide help with amounts that are not critical for you. Therefore, if these large amounts are not critical for them (the richer), they can wait a few days. No need to be tragic about it. This is the way it’s going to be.”
As such, some investors who have fund in excess of N100, 000 said the new rules apply to them and expressed concern that they were never informed about the new deal.
A participant in Karu, Abuja, Oche Ondoma, said 24 hours after the scheme resumed operations, even the poor investors are yet to be paired with other participants that should pay them (Give Help).
According to him, the date for the payment for richer investors is not known yet until poor investors are settled. Ondoma said: “This is also bringing more doubts as to the credibility of the system because they keep changing their rules every time without explicitly advising participants beforehand.”
MMM announced a three week freezing of all members Mavros (its currency) accounts on December 14, 2016. It however extended the ban by another one week and had added a day to the expected unfreezing date bringing it to January 14, 2017. It however reverted to the 30 days suspension period after members woke up to find out they could access their Get Help (payment) section Friday morning.
However, many participants who said they have had their monies trapped in the scheme were anxious to quickly request help (initiate payment) but had difficulty doing so.
A post last Wednesday from the MMM operators confirmed they were doubtful if the scheme will really accommodate all payment as at January 14 when it promised to unfreeze participants’ accounts. “Unfreezing of Mavro will be probably 14th of January or might be sooner,” the post read on its website.
“Programmers are working seriously with the new model and it will be announced later and implemented. This new model will help us keep the system balance,” MMM said on improving the platform.
Participants of other schemes who had experience similar resumption said their matured monies were not paid. On December 2, 2016 a platform, the Ultimate Cycler (UC) believed to be owned by an American, Peter Wolfing, crashed and shut out Nigerian participants. The scheme was barely 48 days in Nigeria when the site crashed, and the reason advanced was that the traffic of registered participants was more than anticipated.   
A participant, Paulyn, said the scheme requires a new member to pay N12,500 to another participant he is paired with and then get four times of that instantly if he is able to register four persons under him. If he can’t do that, the scheme would pair four other persons with him and they would pay the participant N50, 000 in seven days.
Unlike the MMM that promises a 30 per cent return on every money invested in 30 days. The UC makes it more instant, thereby drawing large participation to its site. After three weeks of its crash, the platform resumed operation last Friday but with much grief to investors.
Most of them who had paid to others and were expecting their returns before the crash have not had any refund after the scheme resumed two weeks later. A participant, Chima Onuh, told Daily Trust on Sunday that: “I had put in N12, 500 expecting to get the N50, 000 before the website crashed. It is over a week now since it came back but I have not been told of a refund. Rather, the operators said the website was redesigned to start afresh, only promising higher payment for fresh investments.”
The UC is on but with observed little accolades and marketing from its participants after they were dealt a disappointing blow. There are other similar platforms that are getting just popular in the last few months including the Bitcoin and the Get Help Worldwide, (GHW), reckoned as the fifth most visited of such sites in Nigeria. It works like the MMM, promising 30 per cent every month.
Others are the Icharity and the Swiss Gold which have all overtaken the Foreign Exchange (Forex) trade platform existing in Nigeria.
MMM founder, Sergey Mavrodi or his representative in Nigeria had cautioned on its website that only extra money should be used to Provide Help (invest) and get interest on returns, but many Nigerians threw caution to the wind and dropped in huge fortunes.
They had ignored the fact that the website and the scheme itself have no guarantees from the apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) or the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Commission, (NDIC).
Despite the fears expressed after the suspension, some participants have chosen to remain resolute. Ikenna Donald Ekwuibe said: “I see no reason to panic. There’s no way MMM can crash unless Sergey decides to shut down his website.”
The CBN issued a warning to Nigerians after the reported MMM incidence, educating people on the antics of the operators. It said they capitalise on gullibility of people to defraud them, hence one should be wary.
Late December, 2016, NDIC told Nigerians that they should never invest in platforms that are not insured as losses in such investments could be total. It said the Ponzi schemes and wonder banks have no anchor or registration with the appropriate authorities and hence could defraud people quicker.
The warnings coupled with the apparent crash of the UC site and a hitch in MMM payments further aggravated the perceived fears of many participants. There have also been reports that MMM South Africa had similar issue in May, 2016 when it suspended payments to all those who are entitled to that for a month.
On the return of MMM South Africa, some members who posted what they called “Lessons for Nigeria” said they were never paid their old investments even when the scheme promised to do so and give them higher yield for the delay. Others from Zimbabwe where MMM operated also shared similar tales, projecting that the scheme may not refund all payments to Nigerian participants by the next one week when it is expected to be fully operational again.
Some participants who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said they are beginning to confirm what happened in Zimbabwea and South Africa.
Shortly before MMM unfroze participants’ accounts, it had in a series of announcements launched some ‘improved’ features including the use of bitcoin as an optional currency for 2017. The MMM website however warned participants to disregard a new crypto-currency called ‘Mavrocoin’ that claims to be paying investments. MMM also said it will soon start a new batch of MMM Nigeria guiders school and educate them better.
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