The South African arm of MMM Global Republic of Bitcoin, the pyramid financial scheme based on the virtual Mavros currency, has frozen its members’ money – but is urging them to deposit new funds and recruit more members to “restart” the system.

The international arm of the organisation collapsed three weeks ago, but the local operation continued as before until the past weekend, when it announced the restart.

Posts on the organisation’s Facebook page blame media attention in the scheme that caused fewer people to join up or contribute to it, creating an “imbalance” that made it impossible to pay members out. So “old Mavros” have been frozen, although investors are promised that these will be paid out over the next six months using 10% of new money coming into the rejuvenated scheme.

“New Mavros” will meanwhile be used to kick-start a new pyramid scheme.

According to information from the Facebook page, new deposits will be frozen for 14 days, after which members will be able to request withdrawals from the system.

The MMM scheme promises returns of 30% or more and is apparently under investigation as a Ponzi scheme, in that it promises payouts higher than the 27% maximum allowed under South African law.

The scheme describes itself as a “kind of global fund of mutual aid” that aims to “destroy the world’s unjust financial system”. “MMM is a community of people providing each other financial help on the principle of gratuitousness, reciprocity and benevolence,” its web site reads. “In MMM you don’t have to make contracts or pledge your property. In MMM there are no lenders and no debtors. Everything is very simple: one participant asks for help – another one helps.”