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Thursday, September 21, 2023

The AL Group saga

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By Cherno Abdourahman Bah

The Gambia is an interesting place for me. Social media topics are so dynamic. If there is news of a rape case or murder or corruption scandal for example, all the social media champions will sharpen their pens and make their positions known immediately. Interestingly, no topic trends for long; not more than five days anyway. Even Yankuba Touray’s case took them not more than five days to exhaust despite all that was involved. I think this is one of the reasons crime rate is on the increase. You’ll hear criminals saying “ah bull dega people will talk about it for a day or so and it will naturally die down”. We are not generally known for taking action.

Since yesterday,  the trending topic on social media has been the AL Group scandal. When the news broke out initially, I had only little idea of what it was all about. But I was quick to recall a time that a friend was trying so hard to enroll us into the scheme. He tried so hard; and by hard I mean he answered all our questions, cleared all our doubts, gave us tons of reasons to join and even guaranteed us refund in an event of scam. I didn’t go for it. I didn’t even debate about it, I rejected it outright. I know how I earn my money and I know what to do if I need it doubled- I just redouble my efforts, as one time advised by Ebrima G Sankareh. I’m generally not an Osusu type in fact, mainly because I trust only myself with my money. Also, I don’t suffer from the general fear that if I save my money I’ll chop it soon after saving it.

It’s quite disheartening to learn how this scheme got so many people on board and how it turned upside down all of a sudden. I don’t quite fathom how so many people  believed in it so much that when they began talking about it you could easily notice the passion and conviction on their faces. They literally convinced themselves that this works and it’s no joke. They were quick to forget the common phrase, “no free lunch”.

Today, I was opportuned to speak to few victims of the scam. It was after hearing their stories that I came to understand the full extent of the damage it caused. One of the people I spoke to was even used as a conduit to move the cash. New “investors” were asked to deposit their monies in his account. So he received the deposits on behalf of the scammers. I paused hard when he told me some of the figures he received in his account. Some sold their plots of land, others took loans just to invest. People were depositing up to D400,000. The business was booming all of a sudden. In fact, unconfirmed reports have it that these scammers went away with millions of Dalasi.

Let’s not lose sight of the reason behind people joining in such a large scale. People were earning their returns. This won the trust of a lot of people. Their telegram page had up to 6,000 participants.

I don’t have a thorough understanding of how it worked, but I know that people  paid money in order to activate their accounts and to buy “USDT” which could earn them daily commissions. The commission amount was dependent on the amount paid and the amount depends on the level you’re playing.

So as the scheme progressed, people were earning money from the money they deposited, and they were paid extra for bringing people in. It was all going smoothly until it wasn’t.

Gambians needs to be wary of scammers. They come in different forms and types. Some are very cheap to fall for than others. These victims are obviously to blame because they could see the possible risk. We all take risks and we continue to encourage people to take risk, but calculated risk. “Ragal du teki”, was their slogan, but they failed to notice that “ku moitu moi teki”. I don’t see many people expressing sympathy for the victims and I understand why. Cheap or fast money is usually not the way. Let’s go at our own pace and not be in a hurry. Let’s not be greedy by mortgaging our future to some stranger.

Lastly, don’t ever trust any link that tells you forward to people and earn a certain commission. It’s always a lie. That’s scammers’ way of penetrating the market.

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