Two KwaZulu-Natal Ponzi scheme masterminds will spend 15 years behind bars for defrauding unsuspecting investors of more than R64m.

Fakazile Mazibuko, 53, and Wilson Gazu, 54, both from Newcastle, were convicted in the Durban Commercial Crime Court for fraud and contravening the Banks Act.

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The duo, who operated Trade for Life investment scheme, were found guilty on 6,042 counts.

The Hawks said in a statement on Friday that the men were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment plus another 15 years, to run concurrently.

The Hawks Serious Commercial Crime unit arrested the pair in 2014 after investigations in consultation with the Reserve Bank revealed that Mazibuko and Fazi unlawfully enticed unsuspecting depositors to participate in their scheme with promises of higher earnings from 2011,” said a Hawks spokesman Captain Lloyd Ramovha.

In the initial stages some of the investors received a partial interest payment and were then encouraged to recruit more people.

“In a typical pyramid-scheme fashion, the incoming investors’ money was used to pay the initial investors which became unsustainable as new recruits declined. As a result most people lost their hard-earned capital investments,” said Ramovha.

“Once the monies were no longer being generated Mazibuko and Gazu changed the company’s name to Trade Venture Investments and continued accepting from the public.

“There were a total of 6,024 such deposits made which totalled R64m when the Hawks arrested the pair,” he said.

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