Cape Town – News24 has ordered a website linked to alleged pyramid scheme MMM to remove a fake apology that seeks forgiveness for publishing stories about the Russian-created scheme.
Lawyers representing Media24 and News24 editor Adriaan Basson sent a letter to MMM demanding the fake post – published around April 17 – be removed immediately.
“The publication is false and constitutes a fraudulent misrepresentation,” they said.
“At no stage did our client or any one of its reporters apologise for their reportage concerning MMM.
“In fact, the person referred to in your publication as ‘Rodolf van der Merve’ from News24 is unknown to our clients.
“It appears that you have fabricated the false apology to counter the negative publicity your establishment has received in recent times.
“It is a deliberate misrepresentation calculated to mislead the public and to cast doubt upon the veracity of News24's reportage on the matter.
“We are instructed to demand … that you immediately remove the ‘apology’ from your website and that you publish in its stead an unconditional retraction and apology to News24.
“Should you fail to do so our clients will be contacting your internet service provider with a demand that the item be removed and/or that your website be suspended due to false, fraudulent and defamatory material disseminated thereon.”
The authors of the website, who have received the letter, said on their website that the site “does not represent MMM and is not affiliated to MMM”.
“It is just MMM soldiers fighting against those that want to take their bread away.”
The anonymous author claimed that MMM SA, which started in February 2015, has two million members.
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An investigation into whether MMM is breaching any laws in South Africa has become a priority, according to the Hawks.
The Hawks said its probe into MMM will advance from the cybercrime and digital forensic laboratory to the Commercial Crime Unit, following an initial review of the scheme by the National Consumer Commission in 2015.
One of its offerings, MMM Republic of Bitcoin, shut down this month after failing to give a promised 100% return on investment to its members.
Meanwhile, members of MMM SA have made a high court application in Pretoria to get clarity on whether MMM is a Ponzi and/or pyramid scheme.
The members said in a statement that it is “absolutely confident that the court will declare that the MMM community is not a multiplication or pyramid scheme as defined by the Consumer Protection Act”.
“It is the hope of the MMM-RSA community that both the media as well as the NCC will allow the court process to run its course so that, in the interest of justice, the court may provide clarity in this matter,” they said.
MMM SA calls itself "a community of ordinary people, selflessly helping each other" on its website. "The goal here is not the money. The goal is to destroy the world's unjust financial system."
Officially, MMM SA said its members are encouraged to donate money to participating members by rewarding them with a virtual currency called Mavros, which gives them 30% or more return on their rand investment when they ask for "donations" from participating members a month later.