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Ponzy pyramid: Gabon put to the test by white-collar crooks

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The investigation carried out by a local journalist made it possible to bend a private savings structure operating in Gabon under the usurped identity of a legal company based in Europe.

The Sonnedix affair at the heart of a recent deception in Libreville reveals that Gabon, like so many other countries on the African continent, is faced with the problem of mobilizing domestic savings. This situation therefore paves the way for informal savings, which have had varying fortunes. Some doubt their effectiveness, drawing a bad experience of tontines, collective savings associations.

“In the tontines, when you give 10,000 CFA francs you receive, after ten months, 100,000. When you receive these 100,000 CFA Francs you still incur expenses to receive the members of the tontine group. So you don’t win. You always lose. But in a bank these 10,000 CFA Francs in ten months can get you additional interest rates,” says Morgane Ekome, a self-employed worker.

To limit the risks of a savings scam, Yonnel opted for hoarding. A method as old as the world which consists of keeping cash at home, instead of investing it.

“At the end of each month, as soon as I take my money, I deposit it at home. It’s to avoid scams,” says this young Gabonese state official.

Is hoarding a healthy reflex, a false good idea or a risky precaution? In any case, the latest financial scandal arising from the Sonnedix affair in Libreville could well prove Yonnel right. Because in December 2022, this capital investment establishment aligned itself with the infamous register of pyramid scams that have been shaking Gabon for a decade.

Intrigued by this too great ease of investment, Boursier Tchibinda, journalist, tried to find out more by approaching the “mother” company founded in 2009. The response of the independent global producer of solar energy is unequivocal: “Currently, Sonnedix has no operations or partnerships in Africa (…) We do not support any intermediaries there.”

Moreover, on its Twitter account which it presents as its “only official communication channel”, the company adds for Gabonese Internet users: “Please keep in mind that Sonnedix will never ask you for your money or Your personal information.”

The demand for investment products that are more profitable than traditional bank savings is so strong that savers, mostly individuals, have naively fallen into the trap of these dishonest companies.

The case of Bar Sarl, whose promoters have been missing since 2015, taking more than FCfa 70 billion from 18,000 savers, remains without legal action.

“Since the cessation of activity of BR Sarl in October 2015, savers have constantly reminded the Gabonese State of its responsibilities, believing that it is the main responsible for the situation in which they have found themselves for more than five years. years” explains Emmanuel Mvé Mba, responsible for savers who are victims of BR Sarl.

In practice, no revenue-generating investment is made in the various cases: to create and maintain the illusion of profitability, it is the money of the last entrants that is redistributed to the previous ones, after the promoter has punctured his go. For the federation of professional associations of microfinance establishments in Central Africa, it is time for the greatest vigilance in the face of these well-oiled scam methods.

“We only manage approved establishments…We can denounce them. That’s why we do the press releases. Today, we are carrying out awareness campaigns because we have an educational responsibility, but not that of a policeman,” insists Jean Robert Obiang Obiang, President of FAPEMAC.

Through Ismael Obiang Nze (Libreville, correspondence)

On 01/21/2023 at 08:56

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