The founder and suspected mastermind of an online Ponzi scheme called e-creator, under which unsuspecting people across the country lost over US$1 million, was denied bail for the weekend yesterday after appearing in court facing fraud charges.

Zhao Jiaotong (39) appeared before Harare magistrate Mrs Marehwanazvo Gofa, who remanded him in custody to Monday for his bail application.

 The court heard that in January this year, Zhao hatched his plan for the online investment Ponzi scheme called e-creator. 

It is alleged that on February 7 and in connivance with Trymore Tapfumaneyi, Justin Kuchekenya, Bily Thomas Syedou, Abraham Mutambu and others who are still at large, Zhao registered a company with the Zimbabwean Registrar of Companies styled E-Creator Electronic Commence Private Limited under company registration number 2853/23, with its offices in room 15 and 16 on the 10th Floor of Joina City Building, Harare.

The court heard that Zhao went on to launch the company as an online e-commerce operator.

Between February and July this year, he misrepresented to unsuspecting people that if they invested with the company, they would enjoy huge monthly profits depending on the amount invested. 

Many people across the country flocked to the company and some invested up to US$1 000 through EcoCash numbers supplied on the platform by Zhao.

To make the company more attractive and appealing to unsuspecting people, Zhao used the media, including the national television broadcaster ZTV, social media and Zimbabwean socialites Tarisai Cleopatra Munetsiwa, also known as Madam Boss, and Admire Mushambi, also known as Mama Vee, to advertise the company business on their social media platforms in order to gain more subscribers.

 The company employed various agents in major towns throughout the country in order to market the business.

On July 3, some of the complainants encountered challenges in accessing their funds and approached the company for clarifications.

Mutambu assured the complainants that the problems they were encountering were a result of a system upgrade that was preventing them from accessing the funds. 

He further advised them that the situation would normalise in due course.

 On July 5, the complainants were shocked to realise that E-Creator Electronic Commerce (Private) Limited had sent a notice on its website that it was no-longer operating.

A passport size photo of Zhao was posted on the website with a message that he was the one who took the complainants’ money and fled to China.

The complainants also visited Zhao’s known offices and found that they had been permanently closed and there were no signs of business operations. 

Furthermore, they got in formation that Zhao had actually withdrawn the money and fled.

 The complainants suffered an actual prejudice of around US$1 million and nothing has been recovered.

state media