Biletov Notes, The Scam Of The Century 1: 1 Biletov (MMM, 1994)-Article

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

This note is the 1st denomination of the Biletov Series 1, from the MMM investment scheme. Biletov notes were a private Russian currency, created by Sergei Mavrodi (1955-2018). The notes were marketed effectively as shares, in the MMM Corporation.


Sells where supported by a mass media campaign, claiming large returns (up to 3000%) on MMM investments. The MMM Corporation was in fact a front for an elaborate Ponzi scheme. It was amongst the largest investment fraud cases in world. And the first of it's type and scale, in post-Soviet Russia. Leading to the establishment of new forms of law and regulations, for the newly formed Russian stock exchange.

Observe

The observe features is relatively sparse, with the exception of some common embellishments. Such as guilloche patterns and microprint. A notable feature of Biletov (ticket) notes is their color coded nature. The first 3 denominations of MMM Series 1, share the same border design. (The 10 Biletov note can easily be identified, by its dark orange border.)


The border features a tightly bound guilloche pattern. The interior of the border features a thin seconary border, with the text "БИЛЕТ МММ" (MMM Ticket) in sequence. To the left of the observe's interior is a framed portrait of MMM founder "С. МАВРОДИ" (Sergei Mavrodi). The main text at the center, lists the note's Biletov value, expressed as "БИЛЕТ 1 БИЛЕТ" (Ticket 1 Ticket). The text is printed in what appears to be imitation gold leaf.


Beneath the main text is a underprint of the MMM logo, a stylized Cyrillic "C" (S), housing 3 interlinking letter Ms. Above and below the main text is are "banners", repeating "БИЛЕТ МММ" (MMM Ticket) 3 times each. To the right is a "gold leaf" large number "1", in a guilloche decorated border. Above is the note's serial number "AC 8654839".


Reverse

The reverse features highly stylized engraving, with the MMM logo at the center. Above and below the logo are "banners", with the text "MMM*БИЛЕТ*МММ" (MMM*Ticket*MMM). The center engraving is formed from overlapping floral guilloche patterns.


The reverse's gold is highly reflective, and covered in false gold leaf. Along the left and right edge of reverse's art, are two rows of micro text. It reads "БИЛЕТ МММ" (MMM Ticket) in sequence. To the lower left is a number "1", backed by 13 lines of micro text. This micro text also reads "БИЛЕТ МММ" (MMM Ticket), in repeated sequence. To the far left is a watermark area, colored fibers can be seen against its white surface,


The Ponzi Scheme To Rule Them All

MMM was established in 1989, during the twilight of the Soviet Union (1922-1991). By Sergei Mavrodi (195-2018), Vyacheslav Mavrodi (Sergei's brother), and Olga Melnikova. MMM initially began, as an importer cooperative specializing in foreign office equipment. Namely, computers from the newly opened Western market. The company received it's name from the first letter, of each founding members' surname.


On 25 December 191, the Soviet Union collapsed, destabilizing MMM's activities. In 1992, MMM was placed under investigation by the newly created Federal Tax Police of Russia, concerning accusations of tax evasion. The Federal Tax Police were headed by former KGB General Vladimir B. Yampolsky. Who previously headed the KGB's "Directorate Z", responsible for investigating political and religious dissidents.


Face with these accusations, MMM access to foreign imports (it's primary income) was further restricted. Facing insolvency, MMM then rebranded itself as a financial company. Offering Russian investors access to American stocks, although met little success.


By December 1992, the scheme began to take shape, MMM (now renamed MMM-Invest) created a voucher investment fund. Allowing MMM access to the lucrative private voucher market. Such voucher markets were a hallmark of the post-Soviet world. As the former Soviet Union and its allies transitioned from state socialism to capitalism. This situation allowed the ambitious and well connected, to consolidate wealth, eventually becoming oligarchs.


The infamous MMM scheme was finally starter on February 1994.Playing on the previous success of the private voucher system, MMM introduced the Biletov note. The Biletov note was in theory was an alternative currency, backed by the stock value of MMM. The Biletov notes themselves were based were modeled on the private vouchers, familiar to MMM's intended consumers.


On March 1994, MMM began their infamous 330 million ruble mass advertisement campaign. In an effort to better appeal to a broad audience, the ads featured actors playing everyday citizens. The ads made extravagant claims, such as 3000% annual returns and free Metro (subway) ticket giveaways to all Moscow citizens.


On 22 July 1994, the (Russian) Ministry of Finance issued a statement, concerning a number of investment firms (including MMM) illegally issued unregistered securities. Leading to to a mass protest outside MMM headquarters, requiring intervention by riot police. Effectively collapsing MMM's stock, leading to MMM to cease operations the following day.


As Russia had no ponzi scheme laws, MMM was pursed on tax evasion charges. MMM was estimated to defrauded investors of between 100 Billion-3 Trillion rubles (US$50 million-$1.5 Billion). On 4 August 1994, Sergei Mavrodi was arrested on tax evasion charges unrelated to MMM. This was followed by Sergei Mavrodi successfully elected to the State Duma (Russian Parliament), on October 1994.


This granted Sergei Mavrodi immunity from prosecution, until the Duma voted to revoke his immunity of October 1995. In an effort to regain immunity, Sergei Mavrodi attempted to run for the Russian presidency in 1996. Which was immediately rejected after electoral officials declared the majority of the required signatures were forgeries.


MMM was officially declared bankruptcy, on 22 September 1997. Strangely, the same year the investigation on MMM was ended, due to lack of evidence. The (Russian) Prosecutor General's Office reopened the case, in 1998. Serei Mavrodi was believed to have fled to Greece and was placed on a international fugitive list.


Mavrodi was finally arrested in Moscow nearly 5 years later, on February 2003. Contrary to previous belief, Russian investigators concluded Mavrodi never left Moscow. On April 2007, Mavrodi was convicted and sentenced 4 1/2 years for fraud. He was released the following month, on 22 May 2007, after years of remaining out of the public interest.


Movrodi founded MMM Global in 2011, this time targeting developing nations. Unlike Movrodi's original venture, MMM Global promoted less extravagant retunes of 30%/per month. Prior to collapsing, MMM Global operated subsidiaries in 110 countries. On 26 March 2018, Sergei Mavrodi died of heart failure, in Moscow.


Ultraviolet Gallery

Biletov Series 1 Gallery


Additional Notes

  • This note's size is 150 x 70 mm or 5.90 x 2.76 in, shorter and wider than a US Dollar.

  • While in custody, Mavrodi was reportedly given an ultimatum, ending on 31 January 2006.

  • Mavrodi was allegedly forced to read all documents of the criminal case against him, spanning 650 volumes, each 250-270 pages long.

  • According to reports Sergei Mavrodi's funeral was paid for by MMM Global investors.

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