A 39-year-old Chinese national Zhao Jiaotong, accused of defrauding unsuspecting members of the public of over US$1 million through the E-creator Ponzi scheme has been denied bail by a Harare magistrate Marewanazvo Gofa.
Jiaotong is jointly charged with Trymore Tapfumaneyi and Justin Kuchekenya who have also been denied bail on grounds of being flight risks
E-Creator was a firm that promised investors quick money by sharing positive reviews on e-commerce sites worldwide.
According to court papers, sometime in January, Jiaotong hatched a plan to defraud unsuspecting Zimbabwean nationals through “online investment”.
On February 7 2021 and in connivance with Tapfumaneyi, Kuchekenya and Bily Thomas Syedou, Abraham Mutambu and others who are still at large, he allegedly registered a company with the Zimbabwean Registrar of Companies styled E-Creator Electronic Commence Private Limited.
The company had its offices situated at room 15 and 16, 10th Floor Joina City Building, Harare.
The court heard that Jiaotong went on to launch the company as an online e-commerce operator with a global internet as its core.
“During the period from February 2023 to July accused misrepresented to unsuspecting Zimbabwean nationals that if they invest with the company, they will enjoy huge monthly profits depending on the amount invested,” alleged prosecutors.
The court heard Zimbabweans across the country flocked to the company and invested up to US$1000 000-00 through various Ecocash numbers supplied on the platform by the accused.
To make the company more attractive and appealing to unsuspecting Zimbabweans the accused used the media including the national television broadcaster Zimbabwean Television (ZTV) and socialites namely Tarisai Cleopatra Munetsiwa also known as Madam Boss, and Admire Mushambi also known as Mama Vee to advertise the company business on their social media platforms in order to gain more subscribers.
They also employed various agents in major towns and cities throughout the country in order to market the business.
On July 3 2023 some of the complaints encountered challenges in accessing their funds and approached the company for clarifications and one of the accused Abraham Mutambu assured these complainants that it was a system upgrade.
The court heard Mutambu further advised them that the situation would normalise in due course.
On July 5 2023 complainants were shocked to realise that E-Creator Electronic Commerce Private) Limited had actually sent a notice on their website that they are no longer operating and they posted the passport photo of accused Zhao Jiatong as the one who had taken their money and absconded to China.
The complainants also visited the accused’s known offices and there was no sign of business operations.
They got information that the accused person had withdrawn the money and fled.
As a result of the accused’s actions, complainants suffered an actual prejudice of US$1 000 000-00 and nothing was recovered.