Taking a break from the current devastation being wrought by scammers in South America, today we return to what was a hotbed of pyramid scheme mayhem for much of 2011 and 2012.
Like a plague spreading from one country in the content to another, TVI Express engulfed a considerable portion of southern Africa before things came to a grinding halt once the authorities stepped in.
When we last checked in with the South African Reserve Bank’s investigation into the company mid last year, word of top TVI promoter’s assets being frozen and “imminent arrests”.
Perhaps a bit premature at the time, almost a year later what appears to be the first of the expected arrests has been made, with South African authorities nabbing local TVI Express kingpin Nonhlanhla Hadebe.
Hadabe (right) had already had her Aston Martin and Mercedes-Benz cars seized in mid 2012, and remained a core focus of the Reserve Bank’s ongoing investigation.
In a dawn operation by the Anti-Corruption Task Force on Tuesday, she, her husband, Jabulani Hadebe, 47, her daughter, Hlengiwe Ngidi, 29, and son-in-law, Sibusiso Ngidi, 34, were arrested and charged with more than 10 000 counts involving investments in three schemes between March 2009 and September last year.
They were not granted bail and spent Tuesday night in Westville Prison.
When questioned after her assets were seized last year, Hadebe claimed she had ‘left TVI back in 2010 after learning of the involvement of ‘unscrupulous individuals within TVI‘.
Caught out telling porky pies, Hadebe fronted the
Durban Commercial Crime Court on Tuesday charged with contravening the Banks Act by taking almost R86 million ($8.6M USD) from “investors” in what was alleged to be nothing more than a pyramid scheme.
The charge sheet before magistrate PM Govender was weighty, detailing every deposit taken over the years.
10,000 transactions and every single one of them presented to the judge? Hats off to the Reserve Bank of South Africa.
Meanwhile with Hadebe and her husband involved in the mass-recruiting of affiliates for TVI Express by way of religious marches, one can only begin to wonder exactly what she classifies as unscrupulous:
Siya Mhlongo, a presenter of a religious programme at Igagasi 99.5 FM, led the charge in a (TVI) event that often sounded like a church festival.
He was followed by celebrity pastors and motivational speakers Sithembiso Zondo and Thomas Hadebe, amid singing, chanting and clapping from the audience, attracted by the “how to become a millionaire banners”.
And keep in mind, this is a woman for whom one pyramid scheme was simply not enough. Following her involvement as a ringleader of TVI Express South Africa, she then went on to start two of her own scams.
There was Legend Venture which, for between R5 000 and R35 000, offered membership in “worthless companies to be listed on the stock exchange”.
The third was Club Wealth Wheels “marketed under the guise of an Indian-based discount club for motor vehicle enthusiasts” which, for an annual fee of R2 500, offered discounts of US$150 (R1 500) to $225 on new cars “none of which appear to be available in South Africa”.
Essentially all required the recruitment of new members to get money back.
The charge sheet alleges that while Nonhlanhla Hadebe was the sole member of the two entities, the other three were employed by her and also used their bank accounts for transactions.
It is alleged that forensic auditor Eckhard Volker found evidence they were conducting the business of a bank.
Given that Hadebe lost her legal fight to reclaim her seized assets earlier this year, it would appear the Reserve Bank have a strong case against her.
Unfortunately the outcome of Hadebe’s Tuesday hearing is not currently clear. For reasons unknown, Hadebe’s
defence team was not ready to proceed and the matter was rolled over until Wednesday morning.
At the time of publication, I haven’t seen any news indicating how Wednesday’s mornings hearing went.