- *What I did with N18bn customers’ funds – Michael Eke, MMCS founder
- *Police hand over businessman to EFCC for further investigations
- *We lost our life savings, money borrowed from banks, Osusu – Investors
By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR– POLICE have transferred the founder of Micheno Multipurpose Cooperative Society, MMCS, an alleged Cross-River Ponzi scheme operator, Mr. Michael Eke, being investigated over the whereabouts of the N27 billion deposits by about 27,000 subscribers spread over 17 countries to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for further investigations.
The Biakpan in Biasde Local Government Area, Cross-River state-born businessman detained at the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, where he surrendered himself for probe, last month, was taken into custody by EFCC, last Tuesday.
Eke, who spoke to NDV, penultimate Saturday, before he was handed over to EFFC, said: “I want the public to know that I did not hide their money in any foreign account. I invested in Swiss gold that changed its policy about conversion of funds and repayment that was what happened. Commercial banks became jittery and fought me because they felt a lot of people were pulling out funds from their accounts.”
Empathises with investors, says I’ll refund deposits
“I sincerely sympathize with all those who have fallen ill because they could not take the news of the crash, but I can assure subscribers that I will refund all their money and the impression that our wage bill is in the tune of N27 billion is false. From what we have worked out, the money will be in the range of N18 billion and when the forensic auditing is complete, I do not think we will have up to N5billion to refund,” he said.
Police had arrested Eke in August, but later granted him bail due to pressure from several quarters that directly or indirectly invested in MMCS. He was, however, detained when he responded to a fresh invitation.
How the venture crumbled
MMCS, which started operations in August 2017 as Swissgolden Warriors was meeting its obligation on investment by subscribers until August 2018, when it ran into stormy waters unable to pay swarming depositors from United States, United Kingdom, China, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Trinidad & Tobago, South Africa, Ghana, Cross River and other parts of the country.
While it lasted, customers under its investment plan, members who deposited N100,000, N200,000, N600,000, N1 million, N2 million earned N150,000, N300,000,N900,000, N1.5 million and N3 million respectively, indicating an interest of 50 per cent, within 40 days.
The scandalous offer led a lot of people to withdraw huge sums of cash from their bank accounts, including those who had fixed deposits, while others took loans from local money lenders and commercial banks using their cars and other valuables, including houses as collateral.
Investigations show that some top government functionaries, especially commissioners and aides of the governor also invested huge sums of money ranging from N1m to N10m in the scheme. Things were reportedly going well until the middle of this year when return on investment, ROI, was no longer coming, as the ‘money tree,’ Swissgold, changed its policy leading to the blocking of Eke’s Swissgold accounts.
He launched IMarkets Live, IML, and organized marketing events in major cities in Nigeria, including Calabar, Abuja, Lagos and Uyo in July to revive the ailing company, but in spite of all the efforts, the scheme came crashing with avalanche of petitions from various quarters.
A subscriber, Mr. Theophilus Ikpi, told NDV: “I am finished. I invested N18 million in this scheme believing it was real. Today, I now know it is total scam. I cannot believe my life savings including my mother’s gratuity has gone down the drain in the name of trying to multiply it ,I pray he never comes out of detention anymore, may he rot in jail because I know he may never pay back the money.”
Mrs. Anabel Etuk said: “I collected my N700, 000 Osusu contributions and invested all in MICHENO hoping to get my return-on-investment and go for December market and then later pay back, and that was my first investment I don’t know if I can ever recover again
“Now I am at a loss as to what next to do because I have to finish the contribution. Besides, my shop rent would soon expire so I had expected to use the profit from the bank to offset all these expenditures,” stated the trader.
My misfortune not my making
Mr. Eke, suffering severe pile and excreting blood when he spoke to NDV said: “I went to the police on my own when I got an invitation to come to the Force Headquarters in Abuja, I was not arrested this time and I came on my own. I have also submitted my international passport before now .But surprisingly, I was detained here, and now I am in EFCC custody.”
“They told me initially that I was detained based on an order by the National Assembly for 13 days, but it is about 30 days and now, I have been moved to EFCC. While in Police custody, I could not use the toilet for some weeks now. The doctor, who the police took me to for test while in their custody before I was handed over to EFCC, said I risk being infected.
“My ordeal was not my making, and I am not a fraudster as I have been labeled or made to look by the people, who took advantage of the matter and dubiously took money from unsuspecting investors of the Cooperative in the name of filing a petition against me and writing an open letter to the Speaker of House of Representatives.
Arrest, harassment, freezing of my accounts affecting repayment
“I want the people to know that I was never on the run, I want to pay people back their money but the arrests, harassments have made this impossible and the freezing of all accounts and blocking of all accounts I use. I want to assure all our subscribers that even if it means that this is the only thing I will do (pay back their money), I will gladly dedicate the whole of what is left of my life to achieving it because I am not a criminal as my detractors want the public to believe.
“If I was on the run, I will not submit my travel documents (passport), I will not honour invitations by the police. I came here on my own, I was not forced and I was not arrested, but I willingly came here when I got an invitation,” he said..
A source hinted that Eke, on the advice of his legal team, voluntarily went to EFCC to begin the process of interrogation, following series of petitions against him to the anti-graft agency.