Biletov Notes, The Scam Of The Century 7: 1,000 Biletov (MMM, 1994)-Article

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

This note is the 7th 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 are relatively sparse, with few embellishments, although more do than the 4th and 5th denomination. Omitting the micro-text seen in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd denomination. Instead featuring more conventional guilloche patterns. Which can be seen throughout the note's surface, providing scant degree of anti-counterfeit protection.


The serial number (СП 31/100 080403) remains at the upper right, although features a faction.

Like previous denominations, the note is color coded in this case navy blue. Although unlike previous 3 denominations, which feature decorative color foils.


Later denominations of Biletov notes feature a drastic drop in overall quality. Concentrating on simple use and cost efficiency, in place of eye-catching embellishments. With the 4th and 5th denominations notable featuring the lowest overall quality. Although this was somewhat reversed, at the 6th and 7th (currently seen) denominations.


The interior of the observe features a guilloche pattern border, unlike previous 3 denominations. Which features a more elaborate tightly bound pattern. Also omitted is the earlier denominations' thin interior border, with micro-text repeating "БИЛЕТ МММ" (MMM Ticket) in sequence. Although unlike the previous 4th and 5th denominations, which featured vertical waving underprint. This note features a light-blue underprint. With proper directional microprint lines, acting as an anti-counterfeit measure.


At the left-ward interior is a is a framed portrait of MMM founder "С. МАВРОДИ" (Sergei Mavrodi), opposite of the portrait is the note's main text. This main text features a large number "1000" and the text "тысяча билетов" or "Thousand Tickets ". The main text is backed by 3 overlapping guilloche pattern orbs.


The right most orb forms the edge of the note's underprint. Moving to the far right, is the note's watermark area. At the upper right is an MMM logo and to lower left is a guilloche pattern, with a number "1000". Notably the interior of this number 1000 is left unprinted.


Reverse

The reverse is relatively basic, with a large false 3d text MMM logo at its center. Below this logo is the text "тысяча билетов" or "Thousand Tickets". This logo and text is framed by guilloche pattern orbs. The corner orbs feature a number "1000" inside, while remainder are halved. Just as the observe the reverse features an underprint, with microprint lines.


The watermark area features only a single piece of text. A gold-inked number "500", center at the lower watermark area. The entirety of the reverse art features a thin dark blue frame. Matching the darken highlights of MMM logo. Allowing to contrast to the light gray of the text and "3d" effect.


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.


Biletov Series 1 Gallery


Additional Notes

  • This note's size is 155 × 75 mm or 6.10 x 2.95 in, larger than a standard 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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