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SA’s ‘biggest pyramid scheme’ exposed

Economy

Pietermaritzburg - In the continuing crackdown on what is said to be SA’s biggest pyramid scheme – with estimates of more than 100 promoters and 1 million “investors” participating at any one time – the SA Reserve Bank has pounced on several key players, seizing documents and assets.

Travel Ventures International (TVI) was deemed unlawful by the bank in 2011. It appointed attorney Johan Kruger as an inspector to investigate and take action against the multilevel marketing venture which, it alleges, is operating as a bank, contrary to the law.

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In papers filed in various court applications aimed at preserving “evidence” about the illicit scheme and stripping those involved of assets, Kruger alleges that millions of rand are being channelled through its bank accounts, mainly in transfers of R2 700 or multiplications thereof.

These amounts tie in with the “standard practice” in SA in that “investors” buy a block – equalling one voucher – on a traveller board for R2 700.

Kruger says the vouchers are worthless. And “investors” only make their money through advancing on the board through the recruitment of new investors.

Investigations have revealed that total credits received in various bank accounts of local distributors stand at R265m, with about R190m coming from “investor deposits”.

One of the alleged distributors is wealthy Musgrave businesswoman Nonhlanhla Doris Hadebe. She is fighting to get back the luxury cars – including an Aston Martin Coupé, Mercedes-Benz and expensive furniture – stored at an auctioneers following a seizure at her home and business premises in March.

In his application before the Pietermartizburg High Court, Kruger alleges that Hadebe and her Change Your Lifestyle Network CC, Thrice Divas Trading Enterprise, Legend Venture and Club Wealth Wheels have taken more than R77m from the public.

Hadebe, in opposing this and lodging her counter-application to review Kruger’s appointment, says the shutdown of her businesses is unlawful.

She claims that after she had become aware of “unscrupulous” individuals within TVI, she had stopped all business with it in 2010.

The matter will be argued by the middle of August.

Also putting up a fight against the seizure of their assets are Gauteng-based Fudi Abraham Khambule and Happy Nombulelo Khambule whose assets, including a house in Ballito and four vehicles, were seized by order of the court in March.

Kruger alleged in that application that an analysis of Khambule’s bank accounts reflected more than 1 300 deposits totalling almost R50m, again mostly in multiplications of R2 700.

This matter is expected to be argued this week.

Kruger has also seized documents from three other alleged “distributors”, including Wilson Jabulani Zulu of uMbilo.

In his affidavit in support of the search warrant, he alleges that Zulu, SS Sambo and SG Sibeko are directors of Yatra Ventures SA, through which TVI Express SA does its business.

Kruger said he had met the three men and the lawyer in September last year and had been told they would not co-operate with him because they considered the legislation under which he had been appointed “unconstitutional”.

Other search warrants relate to a Boitumelo Joy Leeuw and Change your World Trading CC – both linked to Zulu – and Mosedi Mphahlele and Mophato Investments CC, alleged to have received about R7.8m through their bank accounts from “investors” over five years.

The Mercury understands that arrests are imminent.

Investigators are still trying to collate a database of all distributors and investors. - The Mercury

* People can report information to 080 067 7772 or e-mail [email protected]

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