E-Creator founder, accomplices remain in custody

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

E-Creator founder, accomplices remain in custody

Prosper Dembedza Herald Correspondent

The founder and suspected mastermind of an online Ponzi scheme E-Creator, Zhao Jiaotong and his alleged two accomplices Justin Kuchekenya and Trymore Tapfumaneyi, will remain in custody after their bail ruling was deferred to Friday by Harare magistrate Mrs Marehwanazvo Gofa.

On Monday, the investigating officer, Detective Brighton Samaneka told the court that the three were a flight risk and are not proper candidates for bail.

Investigations established that the trio allegedly defrauded unsuspecting people across the country of US$1 000 000.

In opposing bail, Det Samaneka said when they arrested Zhao on July 12, he was on the verge of skipping the country’s jurisdiction. He added that Zhao is sitting on loads of money, allegedly obtained fraudulently, which gives him a push to abscond.

Det Samaneka said Kuchekenya was likely to abscond as he is facing a serious offense involving large sums of money. Kuchekenya was allegedly the one working from the E-Creator offices at Joina City in central Harare and can be positively identified by hundreds of witnesses.

The court heard that sometime in January 2023, Zhao hatched the plan for the fraudulent online investment 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, registered a company with the Zimbabwean Registrar of Companies called E-Creator Electronic Commerce (Private) Limited under company registration number 2853/23.

The court heard that Zhao went on to launch the company as an online e-commerce operator with a global internet as its core. During the period February 2023 to July, the accused allegedly misrepresented to unsuspecting Zimbabweans that if they invested with the company, they would enjoy huge monthly profits depending on the amount invested.

Armed with that information, many people from across the country flocked to take up the investment opportunity and invested a combined US$1 million through various Ecocash numbers supplied on the platform by the accused.

To make the company more attractive and appealing to unsuspecting Zimbabweans, the suspects used various mainstream local media, social media platforms and powerful socialites such as Tarisai Cleopatra Munetsiwa, commonly known as Madam Boss, and Admire Mushambi, known as Mama Vee, to advertise the company on their social media platforms in order to gain more subscribers.

They also employed agents in major towns and cities throughout the country to market the business.

On July 3, some of the complaints encountered challenges in accessing their funds and approached the company for clarification. It is alleged that one of the accused, Mutambu, reassured the complainants that a system upgrade was causing the challenges for investors to access their funds. He further advised them that the situation would normalise in due course.

However, on July 5 the complainants were shocked to receive a notice from the E-Creator website that the company was no longer operational.

It was then that some of the complainants posted Zhao’s passport photo claiming that he was the one who had taken their money and fled to China.

The complainants also visited Zhao’s known offices and were shocked to find out that the offices had been permanently closed.

They also got information Zhao had actually withdrawn the money and fled, resulting in the complainants suffering a prejudice of US$1 million, with nothing recovered.