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MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. The criminal case that Russia’s Investigative Committee has agreed to open on charges of fraud against managers of the RusBeauty distance selling company merely goes to show how many people are eager to believe in miracles not just on New Year’s Eve, but during all twelve months of the year as well. Resourceful and crafty RusBeauty managers have lured in no end of naive Muscovites and people in Russia’s remote provinces into taking part in a household articles marketing campaign with promises of hefty cash rewards. In this way they must have made a fortune for themselves but none of the clients were left happy.
Now, that the RusBeauty bubble has burst, some may be tempted to fake cleverness and even ridicule the deceived. But one has to admit, though, that the swindlers acted very professionally and displayed a remarkable knowledge of psychology in attempts to make people pay for God knows what.
At a certain point the author got pretty close to being hooked, too. First, I did a crossword puzzle in a magazine, then dialled the company’s office number to tell the operator the key word, and very soon I got a mail saying I've won a million rubles. To get the prize, though, I was asked to order any of the goods from the enclosed catalogue. The purchase was requested and paid for. Then another message arrived: “Your prize is up to 2.5 million!” Below, I saw the date when I would be invited to get my money. On the mentioned day, though, RusBeauty kept quiet. A short while later I got a text message from the company claiming that on the given day my phone was switched off or out of coverage. I got suspicious, because on the day in question I had five phone calls from my boss, and not a single one from RusBeauty. Naturally, from that moment on all other envelopes from the company I retrieved from my mail box instantly went into the waste paper basket.
Many other fellow Russians, though, went much farther in their correspondence with RusBeauty to keep ordering frying pans, electric irons, blankets and what not. Last October the company declared it would like to award the Asset of the Motherland prize to its best clients and invited several hundred retirees to Moscow, saying each of them had won a ten-million-ruble prize. All were promised a gala award presentation ceremony, accommodation at five-star hotels in the center of Moscow, chauffeur-driven limousines and personal bodyguards who would escort the lucky ones home…
When the deceived clients showed up at the hotels RusBeauty had mentioned in its invitations only to learn they have been cheated, the most angry ones contacted Russia’s first federal TV channel for assistance. In the Let Them Talk evening prime time show the fraud victims narrated their sad stories. Some had wasted several retirement pensions on basically useless items and demanded the swindlers be brought to justice. State Duma member Tatyana Moskalkova, a police major-general, vowed in public she would press for RusBeauty’s criminal prosecution.
Criminal proceedings have at last been launched in accordance with Russia’s Criminal Code over “business fraud.” A detective operation is now in progress with the aim to identify specific culprits responsible.
In the meantime, all fraud victims will now have to just wait for an outcome and try to find at least some consolation in the thought that RusBeauty’s fraudulent scheme is international. A friend of mine who spent a while working in New York on an assignment has told me that one day she, too, did a magazine quiz to suddenly learn she had ostensibly won a Cadillac. For getting the luxurious car she was asked to purchase a heap of utterly useless accessories and to show up in a Chicago suburb riding a bicycle with only a bathing suit on. It’s so good RusBeauty has not asked its clients to dance topless around the New Year Tree in Russia’s winter chill, singing “Let it Snow.”
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