Aged 62, the founder of the largest across the former Soviet Union financial pyramid, MMM, Sergei Mavrodi.
His death was sudden. The night before, the man complained of weakness and heart pain to a random stranger at a bus stop. The stranger called an ambulance. However, doctors could not save Mavrodi’s life – he died this morning in the Botkinsky hospital. The preliminary cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.
A mathematician with a phenomenal memory
Sergei Mavrodi was born on 11 August 1955 into a Moscow family consisting of PanteleiAndreevichMavrodi, an installation fitter, and Valentina Fyodorovna, an economist. Early in his childhood, the boy was diagnosed with a double-sided cardiac defect. According to their prognosis, Sergei would not live till he was 18. However, their prognosis was proven wrong.
According to Mavrodi himself, he has had tremendous memory and was inclined towards mathematical sciences, this is why he decided to pursue a professional career in this field.
Upon graduating from high school in 1972, he enrolled into the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, but failed the entrance exams and had to change his plans. So he applied to the Applied Mathematics School (the artificial intelligence department) of the Moscow State Institute of Electronics and Mathematics. During his student years, alongside poker and chess, Mavrodi became interested in entrepreneurship – Mavrodi learned to make copies of audio- and video- materials and built a whole business on it by selling them to his peers.
After graduating from the Moscow State Institute of Electronics and Mathematics, he went on to work at a closed Scientific research institute, where he ended up being employed for around 2 years.
In the late 1980s, Mavrodi was detained for the first time – operatives of the Department Against Misappropriation of Socialist Propertydetained the young man for 10 days for an “entrepreneurial activity” (selling illegal video recordings). However, he avoided a severe punishment: at the time of the criminal proceedings just being started, the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a decree “On overreaches”, and Mavrodi was released.
MMM financial pyramid
In 1989, Mavrodi, together with his brother and his brother's wife established a co-operative, which he called MMM. The co-operative became the basis for several commercial entities including the AO MMM, which would become Russia’s largest ever financial pyramid that fooled, according to different estimates, between 10 and 15 million investors.
In the early 1990s, when MMM shares appeared on the market, the price of each one grew by 127 times within just six months. This was an unprecedented profit result, although largely caused by extraordinary amount of advertising.
Mavrodigot arrested for the second time in 1994. This time, he was charged with tax evasion on the part of the company he was managing at the time, Invest-Consulting.
What is interesting is the fact that Mavrodi showed no remorse and only expressed pity that he did not finish what he had started. While in prison, Mavrodi collected signatures to register as a candidate for the position of a member of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. Two months later, the Central Election Committee registered Sergei Mavrodi as a candidate.
On 30 October 1994, Russian voters elected him as a member of parliament, and he was consequently released from prison. Only three years later, in September of 1997, MMM would be declared bankrupt.
Mavrodi’s political career was not particularly noteworthy: as a member of the Russian parliament, he did absolutely nothing, since he did not show up for a single session since he was elected. However, ordinary citizens remember his bold statements and his fearlessness in front of the Russian government at the time.
In the very first days of “playing the big politics game”, Mavrodi filed an official application to forfeit his salary and perks traditionally available to Russian MPs: concessions, a country house, an official car. He clearly claimed that he was interested in being a member of parliament purely for the immunity.
Then, he was involved in a conflict with the government. As the result, Mavrodi, through the media, threatened to organize a countrywide referendum. In particular, he promised to collect the necessary 1 million signatures for distrust in the government among 10 million of his investors within just one week. He was then repeatedly invited to the Kremlin “for talks”, but he always ignored such invitations and never accepted them.
One year later, on 6 October 1995, members of the Duma prematurely removed Sergei Mavrodi from office. That same year, he ran for the office of a member of parliament again, this time as a candidate from the People’s Capital Party, but lost the election.
Then came the Russian presidential election. Although the Central Election Committee did register Sergei Mavrodi as a candidate at the beginning, a considerable portion of his signature sheets was later rejected and Sergei Mavrodi was denied registration in the end.
Moreover, a criminal investigation into Mavrodi started, accusing him of counterfeiting signature sheets. However, the investigation was later closed due to absence of the event of a crime. Regardless, he was unable to participate in the election.
That was pretty much the end of the activities of the People’s Capital Party’s, which nominated Mavrodi for the president’s office and officially shut down only in 2011.
Laying low and getting arrested
After Mavrodiwas stripped off his mandate, the case against him regarding tax evasion not only was renewed – it was extended to include a fraud charge. Hence, by the end of 1997, he was on the Russian countrywide wanted list, and was included in the international wanted list just a year later.
Mavrodi successfully hid for over five years, no information about him appeared until the winter of 2003. He was rumored to have been living in one of the Scandinavian countries or Greece, but in fact he never left Moscow. It was revealed later that he had been living in a rented apartment in Moscow. According to Mavrodi himself, he was only able to hide from persecution thanks to his own security service, “comparable to the one that was after me”, meaning that it consisted of former intelligence officers, professionals of the highest level. In April 2007, the court sentenced Sergei Mavrodi to a four year and 6-month imprisonment for the aforementioned crimes.
MMM-likes and activity in Ukraine
In 2011, Mavrodi organized yet another financial pyramid for people across the CIS states, called MMM-2011. A year later, the company transformed into MMM-2012. The pyramid eventually failed.
In 2014, Sergei Mavrodi launched another project – MMM Global targeting the African continent. At the same time, a pyramid was being built in Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Japan, Thailand, India, and China. Later, MMM also appeared in the United States, Irael, Italy and France. In the spring of 2016, Sergei Mavrodi announced the closure of all of his projects.
Simultaneously, he also tried to get back into politics, yet this time in Ukraine. In 2012, he founded the MMM party [My Mayemo Metu – We Have a Dream]. Later at the parliamentary election, the party nominated Denys Pushilin to run for the office of the representative of the electoral district #94. Denys Pushilin is widely regarded to be among the top ranking separatist leaders.
A number of media outlets wrote that MMM was recruiting mercenaries, sending them to the east of Ukraine and funding their operations. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) also mentioned it, particularly, its then director Valentyn Nalyvaychenko spoke of a possible link. Prior to the 2018 Russian presidential election, Mavrodi also claimed he would run for the office. “I am going to run, without a shadow of a doubt. I want to help my country and I know how to. This means its my civil duty.
Mavrodi in mental institutions, literature and film
It is worth noting that some psychiatrists believe that in mid-2000, almost 400 “sergeys mavrodis” were treated in mental homes of the Moscow region – the most popular character. For instance, psychiatists only recall around 50 eltsins at the time.
Furthermore, Mavrodi was also known for his literary work. While in prison, he wrote a novel called “Lucifers’s son”. The novel is currently being published (without publisher’s editing). The novel consists of separate daily novellas. Each of them contains a different hero, a different story, a different human destiny.
All in all, around 150 daily novellas were written. The majority of them have never been published before, some of them were earlier included in the books “Temptation” (2008) and “Temptation-2” (2012).
Apart from that, he has written an abundance of poems, plays and film scripts. For example, the feature film PiraMMMida was released in 2011, based on Mavrodi’s own story. Aleksey Serebryakov played the character of Sergei Mavrodi (Sergei Mamontov in the film). Mavrodi’s script was turned into a film called “The River”, which began shooting in the summer of 2012. The movie premiered at the third annual Russia horror movie awards “Drop” in 2014. “The River” won a special award for “domestic contribution to the genre”. However, the film was never officially released due to unknown reasons.
Between 1993 and 2005, Sergei Mavrodi was married to a Ukrainian citizen Yelena Pavlyuchenko, who won numerous different beauty pageants (Ms Zaporizhzhya-1992, Ms MMM-1994, etc.)