Last Monday, Francistown police made the first arrests in connection with the now-notorious Ecoplexus scam that has conned an untold number of Batswana out of possibly millions of Pula.
A mother and her 19-year-old son are being questioned by Kutlwano Police as the cops try to get to the bottom of the pyramid scheme that has rocked the country.
Mother and son were handed over to the police by disgruntled victims, who it seems figured out the pair were the owners of the bank account in which they had been depositing their money.
However, it is believed the scam runs much deeper than the arrested duo, thought to be pawns in a much bigger game, with rumours of a Chinese connection at the very heart of things.
In a brief interview with The Voice, Officer Commanding No 1 District, Paul Molapisi was reluctant to go into details, noting this was a matter of national interest and still under fresh investigations.
“There is nothing much I can say on the matter as it involves many people and many things. We have a woman and her son in our cells who are helping us with our investigations.
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“We understand many people have lost their money on the pyramid scheme that has been doing the rounds called Ecoplexus. We hear there are Chinese men involved but we have not yet arrested anyone of them nor met with them,” said the top cop, adding they were still trying to figure out the link between the suspects and the Chinese.
Molapisi admitted it was still too early to determine exactly how many people have been affected by the con or indeed the total amount that was stolen.
“It involves the whole country; more and more people keep coming to the station to report every day,” he said.
Meanwhile, a reliable source willing to talk on condition of anonymity, told The Voice the police are looking for two Chinese men they suspect could be the masterminds but who recently skipped the country.
“It appears they had control of the arrested suspects’ bank card and PIN numbers. Their mistake was trying to withdraw cash while in China, which caused suspicion with the bank that side,” stated the source.
They further revealed the scam had been going on since late last year, with those who signed up able to withdraw their profits.
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However, things changed in April, when the scammers offered a ‘double your money’ Ecoplexus special.
“It promised people 100 percent profit, and that is how people joined in large numbers and invested a lot of money!”
On Tuesday, The Voice took a short walk down Ghetto’s bustling ‘Bulawayo Street’ to check out a shop reportedly owned by one of the Chinese men involved.
While it was business as usual in the store, the owner was nowhere to be found and the workers left in charge unwilling to talk.
“He went to his country last week. Normally he goes for four months and comes back to check on the stock then returns to China again,” revealed an employee from one of the neighboring shops.
Agreeing to tell The Voice her story on condition their identity is kept out the paper, a young woman who fell victim to the scam said she was both humiliated and hurt.
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“We are even scared to tell people that we lost our money because they are making fun of us. My mother took the money that she has saved, P20, 000 for her Matshelonyana Dyna, and invested in this thing only to lose it all.
“Myself I lost P3, 000 and I am not working, I had kept it to start a business after my mother bought a Dyna. We just hope the bank will give us our money back. We thought Ecoplexus was to end our poverty,” cried the upset youth, her misery being shared by hundreds up and down the country – exactly how many remains to be seen!