From Melius to JP Fanguin, the booming pyramid schemes

From Melius to EMBI, probably via Jean-Pierre Fanguin, “multilevel marketing” or MLM companies have been flourishing for several months in French-speaking Switzerland. Decryption of a more or less illegal business.“I’m calling to offer you a great opportunity.

Do you know Forex? Okay, we’re going to have a coffee tomorrow, I’ll explain everything to you. You will see, you will quickly make thousands of francs. Our company is brand new but it will soon be worth as much as Apple.

”This is what making a contact in a “multilevel marketing” or MLM company looks like, this new flourishing market in French-speaking Switzerland, highlighted by Melius, IM Mastery Academy, or the buzz of Jean-Pierre Fanguin recently. Opaque and deliberately bypassing traditional institutions and channels, this “new way of trading or selling travel” is spreading like wildfire. This is normal, since the objective of an “associate” is to recruit new members to lower his own costs, more than selling or trading.

Target heart: unemployed and penniless young people.Effective marketing and vulnerable targets“I got there through a friend, he offered to go out for a drink and it was actually an information meeting with other people,” said 25-year-old Sheila *. I was very skeptical, but he swore to me that it was not a scam, and that they would give me back my 1000 fr.

if it didn’t work for me. ” Unemployed and struggling, Sheila let herself be convinced. “In five months, I recovered 100 fr.

I asked for a refund, now I’m ignored. I am told that it is my fault because I am too negative, but that the others win well. But this is manipulation.

”Handling, or in any case well-honed marketing. Recruiters, if possible charismatic, must create urgency by touting an ephemeral opportunity, and project an image of wealth and success to inspire. They have speeches ready to learn by heart.

“And they attack people in distress because others have the choice to say no when they smell the scam,” adds Sheila. These companies look very much like Ponzi schemes, an old and well-known scam. In short, you have to pay to be a member, then recruit new members to lower your fees and receive a salary.

The registration fees of the latter will reimburse the upper echelons of the pyramid, and so on until the exhaustion of potential recruits.“Now that we talk about it, they’re in shit”“In the age of youtubers who have become rich in a few years thanks to the internet, this is a path which seems attractive,” confirms Sandra Imsand, project manager at the Fédération romande des consommateurs (FRC). In this period of distrust of authority, and all the more since the coronavirus has made any prospect of the future more blurred, young people are tempted by an easy money promise.

But it’s too good to be true. ” The pyramids are not eternal, and only the first to arrive can win. “These companies appear very quickly and disappear as quickly,” explains Sandra Imsand.

“Melius, since everyone has been talking about it, they are in shit,” describes Sheila. At first they rented Airbnb for their meetings, but now that they have no money they do it in bars or even in apartments. Even during confinement, and with minors.

All of that to brainwash us. ”What about trading? “It’s mostly a pretext,” says Sandra Imsand. Anyone can buy and sell currencies or stocks, and these companies make it seem easy by offering “signals,” or codes to copy, arguing that they offer techniques “that banks don’t will never reveal because they want to keep them to themselves ”.

When it comes to travel, it’s about getting discounts on hotels or winning stays if you hire enough people. “I was told there was a cruise to be won,” said Sheila. Then they never talked about it again.

” It is precisely the absence of any real goods or services in the activities of society that makes it a probably illegal system (see box), because the announced gains can only be achieved with the money of new recruits. SECO has not yet addressed the subject, reports “24 hours“. “Only the competent court can decide the question if the practices of Melius or IM Mastery Academy fall under the scope of the law,” said a spokesperson.

* assumed name“MLM”, definitionSnowballs or pyramid schemes are prohibited by law, as some MLMs are, while “network marketing” as practiced by the Tupperware brand is permitted. The difference? According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), you have to find out if there is a real commodity or service at the heart of the business, or if the central element is recruitment. MLM companies are often in a gray area, but there are a few criteria to decide in favor of a pyramid scheme : an opaque and aggressive redistribution of money from the bottom to the top, a mandatory investment to join, and the unable to recover this initial amount by returning the product purchased.

In addition, it is often necessary to be part of the system to take advantage of the product, which is therefore made non-marketable without recruitment.Jean-Pierre Fanguin denies with difficultyIn the buzz videos of the young Vaudois, who promises easy money through trading and travel, it’s hard not to think about MLM. Asked about this during an interview with “20 minutes”, Jean-Pierre Fanguin said he knew, but did not bathe in it.

“It’s a lie,” replied Sheila. He was with Melius before. Now either he is still there or he is trying to launch his own Ponzi scheme.

” The young woman is convinced of this, and her words are corroborated by several other young people active in the field. Documents consulted by “24 hours” go in the same direction, since links sent to interested parties from the young man’s email address and Instagram account redirect to Dubai society. Questioned by the daily, the Vaudois said he was surprised.