Implications of a fiduciary and due diligence nature are inevitably raised when a minister's spouse dabbles in a Ponzi scheme, recruits countless numbers of Batswana to join them and then insists that there is nothing wrong with any of it, writes LAWRENCE SERETSE
Meriam Matambo, the wife of Botswana's Minister Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, says she is happy with the returns she got from the P100,000 she invested in Eurex Trade ponzi scheme.However, Eurex Trade is a very risky money laundering pyramid scheme that is known to have scammed and swindled its many investors out of millions of shinplasters before evaporating into thin air overnight.Not so, says Mrs Matambo. Inspite of the massive negativity that surrounds the Eurex, as a member and listed contact for the scheme, she enjoyed every bit of it while it lasted.
She says she joined in March last year and put up a stake of P100,000 which she recovered fast because, according to her estimation, it was not a lot of money (that I invested). "I lost nothing to Eurex," she says. "I invested as little as P100,000 and it took me (just) a while to recover my money back." According to Matambo, another long serving member, (name known to Mmegi), who is also listed on the contacts list recruited her to the scheme.
In turn, she introduced a number of other individuals. Matambo's role was to present the financial basics of the scheme to newcomers as potential members, she says. She claims she would tell them about the lucrative benefits of Eurex, as well as the bad side of the scheme. She always left it to the people to sleep on her lecture before making a decision on this risky financial scheme. "I would tell them that they are on their own and that they should not make a decision based on external influences because it was their life they were gambling with," she says. "Most of my people I did not personally recruit per say; they were brought to me by other members. I had a lot of people in this scheme and I really can't count them."
The Finance minister's wife told Mmegi yesterday that she did not think anyone should be labelled a victim of this scam because everybody who invested in it knew the risks and that the scheme could vanish overnight.
Matambo says she has much respect for the individuals who invested in Eurex because they are all intelligent and smart people who had an appetite for risk."I have respect for everyone who chose to invest in this because they have brains," she emphasises. "It is risky, and if you don't have an appetite for risk and you went in, you could die!" she accentuated. Actually, you could die many times before you died!"
Matambo will not reveal the people who brought the ponzi scheme to Botswana. Although she refused to point them out during her interview with Mmegi this week, she said they were on the Eurex contact list the newspaper had in possession. The Eurex contact list has 21 names of the scheme's representatives from Botswana while others are labelled as representatives of other African countries, some of them in West Africa.Asked if her husband, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, knew about her involvement and investment in Eurex Trade, she responds by saying Kenneth only found out after she had long invested and that she is an independent being, at any rate.
"I am a Motswana woman and a human being in my own right," she says matter-of-factly.
"I couldn't have seen it coming," he said. "As I said last time in Parliament, people who invest in these schemes do so at their own risk and we have no control over it." Even so, the minister pointed out that his ministry had issued a statement through the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NIBIFRA) advising the public about the dangers of these pyramid schemes and that Botswana had no jurisdiction over them since they were not locally registered.Most of the people on the contact list declined to speak with Mmegi about their involvement, saying it was their business and the issue was too sensitive on their part.
However, a young man who asked to remain anonymous disclosed to Mmegi that he invested P21,000 in Eurex and lost big. By the time he quit after five months, they gave him only P16,000. Apparently a hearty gambler, this young man had invested in numerous other Ponzi schemes on the side, among them Forex-Plus and Royalty7.His modus operandi was to use returns made on one scheme to raise his stakes in another. "When I joined in July last year, they paid me P3,000 for three months," he said. "When I quit, they cut my stake by 20 percent and returned to me P16,000. I had joined numerous other schemes, so whenever I made a profit, I transferred the money to another scheme to up my stakes."
The young man said he lost P600 in ForexPlus and P2,000 in Royalty7 for the eight months he invested in them.Even so, he regrets nix because he was well aware of the risks.Meanwhile, a woman who has been reported as having been the key player in Botswana, Gloria Lesetedi, says she only discovered that she was listed as the Eurex rep for West and Southern Africa when people called her about joining the scheme. She claims she had lodged a complaint with Eurex Trade, the perpetrators, but could not show Mmegi any evidence of having done so.
"I was never a member," Lesetedi insists. "In April last year, I received calls from people wanting to join because they got my contacts from the list. I then lodged a complaint and prepared to take the necessary action."Because most players in the Eurex game are not talking, the full extent of the operation and the damage it has caused in Botswana may never be known. However, issues of a fiduciary and due diligence nature are raised when minister's spouses dabble in such schemes, draw admittedly countless numbers of Batswana to join them, and then insist that there is nothing wrong with any of it.