Founder of Online Ponzi Scheme Denied Bail after Court Appearance
Harare, Zimbabwe – Zhao Jiaotong, the alleged mastermind behind the online Ponzi scheme known as e-creator, appeared in court yesterday facing fraud charges. The scheme, which defrauded unsuspecting individuals across the country of over US$1 million, has left numerous victims devastated. Zhao’s bail application was denied, and he was remanded in custody until Monday.
During the court hearing before Harare magistrate Mrs. Marehwanazvo Gofa, it was revealed that Zhao conceived the plan for the e-creator online investment scheme in January of this year. On February 7, in collaboration with Trymore Tapfumaneyi, Justin Kuchekenya, Bily Thomas Syedou, Abraham Mutambu, and other individuals who remain at large, Zhao registered a company named E-Creator Electronic Commerce Private Limited with the Zimbabwean Registrar of Companies. The company’s offices were allegedly located in room 15 and 16 on the 10th Floor of Joina City Building, Harare.
According to court proceedings, Zhao launched the company as an online e-commerce operator. Between February and July, he deceived unsuspecting individuals by falsely promising them significant monthly profits based on their investments. Many people from across the country were lured into the scheme, with some investing up to US$1,000 through EcoCash numbers provided by Zhao.
To enhance the company’s appeal, Zhao utilized various media outlets, including the national television broadcaster ZTV, as well as popular social media influencers such as Tarisai Cleopatra Munetsiwa, also known as Madam Boss, and Admire Mushambi, also known as Mama Vee. These influencers advertised the e-creator business on their platforms, aiming to attract more subscribers.
The company also employed agents in major towns throughout the country to market its services. However, on July 3, several complainants faced difficulties accessing their funds and sought clarification from the company. Abraham Mutambu, one of the accused individuals, reassured the victims that the issues were a result of a system upgrade, which temporarily prevented access to their funds. He promised that the situation would normalize soon.
To their shock, on July 5, the complainants discovered a notice on E-Creator Electronic Commerce (Private) Limited’s website stating that the company had ceased operations. The website prominently displayed a passport-sized photo of Zhao along with a message indicating that he had absconded with the complainants’ money to China.
When the victims visited Zhao’s known offices, they found them permanently closed, with no signs of business activity. It was later revealed that Zhao had indeed withdrawn the funds and fled the country. To date, the victims have suffered an estimated loss of approximately US$1 million, and none of the funds have been recovered.
Zhao Jiaotong’s appearance in court marks a significant step towards seeking justice for the victims of the e-creator Ponzi scheme. As the legal proceedings progress, the hope remains that the full extent of the scheme’s operations will be uncovered, providing some solace to those who fell victim to this elaborate deception.