State opposes bail for e-Creator founders
Prosper Dembedza, Harare Bureau
The investigating officer in the case of the founder and suspected mastermind of an online Ponzi scheme called e-creator, Zhao Jiaotong, and his two accomplices, Justin Kuchekenya and Trymore Tapfumaneyi, yesterday told the court that the suspects were a flight risk and were not proper candidates for bail.
Investigations established that the trio defrauded unsuspecting people across the country of US$1 million.
In opposing bail Detective Brighton Samaneka said when they arrested Zhao on July 12, he was on the verge of fleeing the country. His aim was to place himself in a country beyond the jurisdiction of the court he was sitting on loads of fraudulently obtained money which gave him reason to abscond.
Detective Samaneka said Kuchekenya was likely to abscond as he was facing a very serious offense involving large sums of money. Kuchekenya was said to be the one working in the e-creator offices at Joina City building in Harare and could be positively identified by hundreds of witnesses.
The court heard heard that sometime in January 2023, Zhao hatched a plan to defraud unsuspecting Zimbabwean nationals through an online investment Ponzi scheme. It is alleged that on February 7, 2021 the trio whilst acting in connivance with Bily Thomas Syedou ,Abraham Mutambu and others who are still at large, Zhao registered a company with the Zimbabwean Registrar of Companies styled E-Creator Electronic Commence Private Limited under company registration number 2853/23, with its offices situated at room 15 and 16 on the 10 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 to July Zhao and his accomplices missrepresented to unsuspecting Zimbabweans that if they invested with the company, they will enjoy huge monthly profits depending on the amount invested. As such many Zimbabweans across the country flocked to the company and invested very large sums through various Ecocash numbers supplied on the platform by the gang.
To make the company more attractive and appealing to unsuspecting Zimbabweans the accused used the media including the national television broadcaster ZTV, social media and powerful Zimbabwean socialites 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 agents in major towns and cities throughout the country in order to market the business.
On July 3 some of the complainants encountered challenges in accessing their funds and approached the company for clarification.
One of the accused, Abraham Mutambu, assured the complainants that it was a system upgrade that was preventing them from accessing the funds.
He further advised them that the situation would normalise in due course but on July 5, 2023, the complainants were shocked to realise that E-Creator Electronic Commerce (Private) Limited had actually posted a notice on their website that they were no-longer operating and they posted the passport photo of accused Zhao Jiatong as the one who taken their money and absconded to China.
The complainants also visited accused’s known offices and found that they had been permanently closed and there were no signs of business operations.
They got information that the accused person had actually withdrawn the money and fled.
As a result of accused’s actions, the complainants suffered an actual prejudice of around US$1 million and nothing was recovered.