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Batswana lose millions in pyramid scheme

PAULINE DIKUELO
The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) is investigating a case in which more than 200 people have allegedly been swindled of millions of Pula through a suspected pyramid known as Longrich Botswana.

Operated by Kenyan couple, Walter Mogi and Elena Tai, Longrich Botswana was said to be part of a Chinese company called Longrich, which allegedly produces more than 1,000 product lines across categories such as household, cosmetics, health care products, furniture, real estate and logistics.

The company was said to be one of the largest and most advanced centres for research, development, manufacture and sale of cosmetics and health care products in China. 

However, Mmegi has established that at least 200 people deposited funds ranging from P2,000, up to P1 million depending on product into a South African account belonging to Mogi with the hope that they would get their products to sell under the Longrich brand.

The victims were also expected to recruit other members into the programme. The Kenyans offered a Hyundai Elantra as a bonus for whichever customers generated the highest recruitment of new members.

“I joined Longrich sometime early this year as a Platinum VIP member in which I qualified to get Longrich products amounting to P20,000 which I paid as a joining fee and an Elantra car as a bonus,” said one victim speaking on condition of anonymity. “We were supposed to get our products and cars around May this year, but instead they have been postponing till to date.

“The only people who got their products were sent 30cm sanitary pads.”

Another victim told Mmegi that she took all her savings to invest in the products because she had been promised she would receive them, a car and a monthly salary which ranged between P2,000 and P70,000 depending on the members she was able to recruit for sales.

“We have been receiving different stories. Last week I visited Longrich offices in Commerce Park to claim my money back and found their offices closed,” she said.

She continued: “We heard that the

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staff has taken the owners to labour as they have not been paid their salaries for the past three months. We don’t know who to talk to as Elena is currently said to be in Dubai. Only the boyfriend is around and he doesn’t want to talk to us.”

The Director of Crime Intelligence Branch, Cornelius Lesola confirmed to Mmegi that an investigation into the activities of Longrich Botswana and its owners was underway. He however declined to disclose any details, saying this could jeopardise the case.

Mmegi has been unable to reach the couple for comment. The cellphone numbers provided for them by multiple sources all route directly to voicemail.

Last month Mogi and Tai appeared for mention in a case in which it is alleged that three years ago, in the company of others, they were implicated in the defrauding of P15 million from different banks including Stanbic Bank Botswana and First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB).

Earlier this year, consumer rights activist and Mmegi columnist, Richard Harriman cautioned about Longrich’s activities, in an article on pyramid schemes.

“Another multi-level marketing scheme that I think is much more dangerous is called Longrich. “They’re another pyramid-structured business so, like Herbalife, you’re highly unlikely to make any money from it but what worries me most is the range of products they sell. “For instance, they claim that their “Nutri V Rich” product is “anti cancer, improve and prevent diabetic, high blood pressure, and other terminal diseases.

“They also say it’s ‘almost 100% effective in treating a range of conditions such as high blood pressure, fatty liver, diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes), obesity, gastritis, liver disease’. “Making claims like that is illegal in Botswana. They are described as a “prohibited advertisement”, contrary to Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code. It’s criminal,” Harriman wrote.



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