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Johannesburg - Two Ponzi scheme masterminds from KwaZulu-Natal have been sentenced to 15 years in prison after they were found guilty on 6024 counts of fraud, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (known as the Hawks) said on Friday.

Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha said 53-year-old Fakazile Mazibuko from Ladysmith, and 54-year-old Wilson Gazu from Newcastle operated a notorious Trade for Life (TFL) investment scheme in northern KwaZulu-Natal where investors lost more than R64 million.

"The Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigating unit arrested the pair in 2014 after investigations in consultation with the Reserve Bank revealed that Mazibuko and Fazi unlawfully enticed unsuspecting depositors to participate in their scheme with promises of higher earnings from 2011," he said.

Ramovha said at the initial stages, some of the investors received partial interest payments, which encouraged them to recruit more depositors and in a typical pyramid scheme fashion -- the incoming investors’ money was used to pay the initial investors which became unsustainable as new recruits declined.

"As a result, most people lost their hard-earned capital investments. Once the monies were no longer being generated, Mazibuko and Gazu changed the company’s name to Trade Venture Investments (TVI) and continued accepting deposits from the public."

He said there were a total of 6024 such deposits made which totalled R64 million when the Hawks arrested the pair.

"The Durban Commercial Crime Court has convicted the duo for fraud and contravening the Banks Act. Both the accused were found guilty on all 6024 counts."

Police said they have been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment plus an additional fifteen 15 years to run concurrently on all other counts.

African News Agency (ANA)