Something went terribly awry this morning when Microkhan Jr. dismounted from a shoulder ride; my glasses snapped in half as his size eights kicked against my nose, and I now find myself staring through crooked, taped-together frames that make me feel as if I’m wandering through a funhouse. I have a late-morning appointment to get a fresh pair, plus (gulp) my first-ever pair of contacts, so I gotta be brief here. But let me direct you to a slab or reportage that very much demands your attention: Dan Morrison’s multi-part Slate series on “The Bernie Madoff of Sudan.” I had no idea that Darfur had been victimized by a epic Ponzi scheme, one that ended up bilking roughly 50,000 people out of their meager life savings. Morrison (occasionally known around these part as “our man in Dhaka”) got one victim to summarize the depressingly familiar particulars of the scheme:
The pyramid scheme began in early 2009 when Ismael, then a police officer who sold used cars on the side, opened an investment fund in Rahma Souk, or Mercy Market, not far from the state police headquarters in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state. The fund promised alarming returns. Investors would make in-kind payments of real estate or vehicles and receive, four to six weeks later, a check with a value of 150 percent of their initial investment.
To riff off of H.L. Mencken, no one ever went broke by underestimating a public’s zeal to get rich quick. The Albanians can certainly confirm that bit of folk wisdom.