As we draw to the close of 2010, another major blow has been dealt to TVI Express’ operations in Africa.

On the 29th of December, 2010, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry not only officially confirmed TVI has been declared a pyramid scheme in South Africa, but also that they intended to launch criminal proceedings against the company and its distributors.

The Department of Trade and Industry said yesterday it had opened a police case against TVI Express “for operating a prohibited Pyramid Promotional Scheme”.

“This matter was reported to SAPS Commercial Crime Unit in Durban in September for further investigation and prosecution,” said Trade and Industry spokesperson Sidwell Medupe.

The scheme contravened Notice 1135 of 1999 promulgated in terms of the provisions of Consumer Affairs (Unfair Business Practices) Act 71 of 1988.”

According to South Africa’s Consumer Affairs Act,

Persons are not directly permitted to, directly or indirectly, promote or knowingly join, enter into or participate in pyramid schemes (receiving compensation, primarily from the respective recruitment of other participants).

As seems to be the continued trend now with TVI Express and regulatory action against it, the company has chosen to not respond to any of the allegations made against it.

Instead TVI Express have completely abandoned their operations in South Africa and left those involved in the company facing the risk of criminal prosecution.

In speaking to the media, South African TVI Express member Bongi Ngomane stated

The owner of the scheme, Parun Trika from India, has disappeared and the website that was used to purchase the vouchers has been closed.

We have tried to contact him through our main communication line – the website – but only get a reply that the scheme is on hold as he has to verify our virtual offices.

With the seriousness of the allegations made against TVI in South Africa and a lack of an official response thus far, it’s easy to see how South African TVI members might feel like Trika has disappeared. More likely I believe however is he’s simply chosen to cut all ties with South Africa and concentrate on promoting TVI elsewhere.

As for the website, I presume Ngomane is talking about some sort of localised version of the international TVI Express website. I thought these were simply funnels that directed traffic to the international back end but I could be wrong.

In any case, stating that he had to ‘verify‘ the South African virtual offices is a bit rich coming from Trika. A virtual office doesn’t have a physical location so short of confirming it’s functional, what else is there to verify.

More than likely I believe Trika knew something was up in South Africa and put the establishment of TVI virtual offices in the country indefinitely on hold.

If you have an office in a country, even a virtual office, then there’s a paper trail for authorities to follow leading to the top. Obviously if you’re running a pyramid scheme it’s much more convenient to simply let your members claim to be leaders within the company and stand on their own.

That way if the shit hits the fan, as it appears to have happened in South Africa, you can simply cut and run.

Meanwhile over in neighbouring Namibia similar regulatory action appears to be underway against TVI Express. Last I heard TVI Express had been declared an illegal pyramid scheme by the Bank of Namibia, TVI members were threatening a class action lawsuit against the government and, as far as I can tell, there’s been no official response from TVI itself.

In light of the complete abandonment of TVI Express’ South African members following regulatory action, if I was marketing TVI Express in Namibia I’d be seriously thinking about a career change.