MMM fund victims call for chief's release

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The Independent Online
IN ANOTHER twist to the MMM scandal, thousands of Russians who were duped into investing in the pyramid share scheme appealed yesterday for the release of the man who tricked them, Sergei Mavrodi. But police said they were keeping the fund president in custody because he had failed to co- operate with their investigations.

Ministers have said that MMM was running a classic pyramid scheme, paying out dividends with money from new share purchases. But many of the inexperienced people who invested are still convinced their dream of enrichment could have come true if only the government had not interfered.

Yesterday the newly-formed union of MMM shareholders sent an open letter to President Boris Yeltsin asking him to give Mr Mavrodi a chance to make everything right.

'In half a year of operations, MMM never deceived us,' it said.

'However, as a result of the attacks of the government, shareholders started to panic and offload their shares, which brought the share price crashing down.' The union asked for Mr Mavrodi to be allowed to fulfil his promise to return the shares to their former level.

Russia does not yet have a law against pyramid schemes but the authorities believe they may be able to get a conviction on charges of tax evasion. These relate to another branch of the MMM business empire called MMM Invest-Consulting which is accused of owing the state dollars 12m (pounds 8m).

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