Anger, despair as pyramid scheme dupes investors

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA CHRISTINE Chimedza (35) casts a miserable demeanour as she sits on a tattered couch at her home in Harare’s high-density suburb of Mufakose. She is worried about a hospital bill, which has ballooned over the past few months as she has been undergoing cancer treatment procedures. To make matters worse, Chimedza recently […]


CHRISTINE Chimedza (35) casts a miserable demeanour as she sits on a tattered couch at her home in Harare’s high-density suburb of Mufakose.

She is worried about a hospital bill, which has ballooned over the past few months as she has been undergoing cancer treatment procedures.

To make matters worse, Chimedza recently lost her US$10 000 savings she had invested in a doomed pyramid scheme, Berven Capital.

The outfit unceremoniously closed shop last year while owing thousands of desperate Zimbabweans millions of United States dollars.

Chimedza could not hold back tears.

“I don’t know what to do now,” she said. “After I invested all my savings with Berven Capital, I did not get any returns.

“I did not know that it was going to close shop. I don’t know how I will settle my hospital bills. I am gutted.”

She is one of thousands of desperate Zimbabweans, who invested their money through a money spinning scheme with expectations of getting  huge profit margins, but were latter duped of their hard-earned cash.

Other victims, who spoke to this publication had no kind words for the company, which sunk their money into the scheme after promising big returns.

They said it was worrisome that owners of Bevern Capital have not faced the full wrath of the law.

Victims have since tried in vain to form committees and create a WhatsApp groups to lobby for the recovery of their hard-earned cash.

“My fellow investors, we now all agree that we were misled by the former chairman to pursue his hidden agenda, which is not known to us.

“He urged us to be patient and not to report our cases to the police, but rather seek dialogue with Berven Dzinoenda,” said one enraged victim in one of the numerous WhatsApp groups.

“He lied to us that Berven started pay-outs in January 2021 and testimonies will follow.

“It’s time for action now, and to seek accountability for those who mislead us.

“We thank you for your prayers. We now pray for God’s guidance.

“Every step we take will be in line with the constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe and zero corruption mantra.”

The victim, who lost close to US$20 000 poured her heart out that her loss soured family and friendship ties and many lost houses, cars, while some are heavily in debt.

“Not talking of orphans’ sources of living, Berven Capital ran away with many vulnerable people’s hard-earned money — including cancer patients, young people’s start-up capital, lobola and wedding savings,” the victim said.

Gerald Muzo, a father of two, said since his loss, his marriage has been punctuated with sorrow and grief.

“I had invested US$10 000 in anticipation of getting a return,” Muzo said.

“It’s now a year since Berven vanished with my money.

“The relationship with my family is rocky. I am battling serious mental health challenges as I speak.

“It’s hitting me hard. Law enforcement agencies must take action.”

Last October police announced they were looking for Dzinoenda and Ambrose Chikukwa in connection with a company called Bevern Capital (Pvt) Limited that had branches in Harare and Kwekwe and was taking deposits of various amounts from people promising lucrative returns within a week, in violation of the Banking Act.

Their partner, Richard Boutros Samunda, was arrested and appeared at the Harare magistrates court charged with violating the Banking Act.

But Dzinoenda and Chikukwa are on the run.

In a statement issued in October last year the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) said it was seeking information on the location of Bevern Dzinoenda NR 59 — 154186 C 48, Passport number CN532572, in connection with cases of fraud as defined in section 136 of the Criminal Law [Codification and Reform] Act, Chapter 9:23 and contravention of section 5(1) of the Banking Act, Chapter 24:20.

“During the period between 2018 and 13th August 2020, the accused person operated Bevern Capital Private Limited, accepting deposits from members of the public, posing as a registered investment company without a licence from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“Clients were promised super profits upon maturity of their deposits,” ZRP said then.

It could not be verified how much Bevern Capital took from desperate Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans also fell victim to another media Ponzi scheme known as Kuwait Dinair Limited, which swindled US$1 910 000 from people promised that were profits ranging from 5% to 100% between July 13 and August 6 last year, according to police.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Nyathi said the company owners were still on their police radar and investigations were underway.

“We are still conducting investigations and we are looking for Bevern Dzinoenda,” Nyathi said.

“The dockets are with the CID at the moment.”

When this news crew visited Bevern Capital’s Milton Park offices, it was deserted and the security details manning the premises said the company had since moved out. As victims fail to stomach the pain of losing their savings, this has aggravated mental health challenges leading to depression and suicide.

According to media reports last year, a Kwekwe woman drank poison after learning that the Ponzi scheme had shut down.

Takudzwa Chisango, an economist, said it was a catch-22 situation for those who were fleeced as there was no way they can seek recourse from government for reimbursement of their monies because there was no locus standi between the trading arrangement of the reaper and the ripped public.

“The monetary authority, RBZ, is on record warning the public against engaging in these pyramid schemes as there is no legal approval of such schemes,” Chisango said.

“The public was simply treading on thin ice, undertaking these activities at their own risk.

“So the only way the government can come in is by bringing those companies to book as they were going against the law, and I’m sure such efforts are in motion.”

Constitutional law expert Tendai Biti said there was always a way victims could find recourse.

“Pyramid schemes have been around for decades, one wonders how one would fall victim to them,” said Biti.

“There is always a remedy to this issue.

“One needs to understand if these schemes were registered .

“Does the government know about them? If so the central bank and ministry of Finance will be liable.”

RBZ governor, John Mangudya could not be reached for comment.

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