Benin: ‘Ponzi scheme’ trial opens in Cotonou

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A long-awaited trial opened in Benin on Thursday into an alleged Ponzi scheme described as the biggest financial scandal in the country’s history.

Twenty people appeared before an Asize Court in Cotonou for conspiracy, defrauding the public and practising illegal banking.

The case first emerged in 2010 when a local firm known as ICC Services and others were accused of defrauding people of their life savings through a fraudulent scheme.

Benin’s government in 2010 launched a compensation scheme for victims but tens of thousands are still waiting to be paid back.

François Johnson, is a victim of the ICC Services scam: “ICC services, have killed the country. The state has been unable to handle the case and I want justice for innocent people because they will be in prison for nothing. What’s next? Nothing, because I’m sure none of the affected will be paid.”

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund, nearly 150,000 people lost their money between 2006 and 2010,and the total amount estimated to have been defrauded was more than 262 million USD.