Scores of Pietermaritzburg residents may have lost hundreds of thousands of rands in what appears to have been a pyramid or Ponzi scheme.
The people behind the company offering major interest on investments locked its doors more than a week ago and have apparently disappeared.
Employees of X-Traders Market arrived at the Timber Street offices last Monday to find the doors locked and the furniture gone.
Investors who spoke to The Witness, said the company ostensibly acted as a foreign exchange broker trading on their behalf.
Pietermaritzburg police station spokesperson Captain Khosi Khonjelwayo said a charge of fraud was being investigated.
“Many people have come forward to open different cases, but we have only opened one docket for fraud. No one has been arrested yet,” Khonjelwayo said. Khonjelwayo could not give the exact number of cases that have been opened.
A neighbouring businessman in the Allied Building premises said: “There were always queues outside their offices. They sold people dreams and took their money.
“The more people got interest payouts, the more they came back and injected money into it. It’s very sad.”
He said last Monday, things were chaotic as the different “investors” realised that they may have been victims of a scam.
“We had a very long queue outside and people were angry. They wanted their money back. Others said they had invested their last savings hoping they would get paid more returns.”
The tenant said the owners of the company packed up and left last Saturday, saying they were going to do a presentation in the Greytown area.
“They said they were coming back on Monday to do payouts that were due. When their employees came to work on Monday morning, the doors were locked and all the furniture was gone.”
An X-Traders Market pamphlet said it had offices in Pietermaritzburg, Greytown, Eastern Cape, Pongolo and Durban.
An 81-year-old pensioner from Imbali who invested money into the scheme said she was shocked when she heard that the owners had left.
“I was supposed to get paid my interest on 25 October. I can’t believe my money is gone. I invested R2 000 in two different investment plans.
“I invested in plan A which pays out R800 for six months and plan B that pays out interest of R2 500 for three months.”
The pensioner was sitting on a bench outside the Timber Street offices with four other people who believe they were also scammed.
“I was referred to this company by a neighbour. She had received about four interest payouts since she joined in April. I thought it was legit,” she said.
The pamphlet said that the company offered four investment plans, which paid interest of up to R750 000. Another woman said she had taken out a loan of R100 000 to invest money into the “market”.
“I don’t know how I’m going to repay my loan. I was hoping that with the first R750 000 I could pay back what I owed the bank. I don’t know what to do.”
A woman from Sobantu said she was owed R390 500 on the money she had invested.
“If you invest for a longer period, you get more returns. I have receipts that show that these people owe me this amount.”
The woman added: “I have tried many times to call them but all the numbers listed on the flyer all go straight to voicemail.”
Attempts to contact X-Traders Market were unsuccessful last week as all the five phone numbers provided on the pamphlet went straight to voicemail or were unanswered.
There appears to be no trace of the company on the Internet.