NEW DELHI, June 14 (RAPSI) - The three Russians arrested in India on suspicion of running a Ponzi scheme have been charged with creating a financial pyramid, Roman Vorobyov from the Russian Consulate General in Mumbai told RIA Novosti on Friday.

Alexei Muratov, Denis Rozhkov and Andrei Kilin from Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox India or MMM India, the firm's representatives in Mumbai Dinesh Kotian and Rimish Balan, and Nabajit Das, a local agent in Guwahati, were arrested in Guwahati in late May. According to the Assam police, the Russians defrauded people of money via their website, promising them considerable profit from investing their money in a charitable fund.

The jailed Russians went on a hunger strike; they stopped taking solid food on May 30 and soon were hospitalised.

On Tuesday, June 13, the court ruled that they be turned over to the Mumbai Economic Offences Wing (EOW). The Guwahati police told RIA Novosti that the three Russians had been charged with criminal collusion, misappropriation of others' property and using fraudulent means to take over others' property.

The Times of India wrote on Friday that on June 3 the EOW registered a first information report (FIR) against 17 people, including five Russians. Police said that more than 70,000 people had invested in the company, which operates "a double-the-money scheme."

MMM India, which is said to be running in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, asked people to invest between 5,000 rupees ($90) and 50,000 rupees ($900).

MMM India says it is neither a company nor a business, but a "mutual aid fund."

Between 10 and 15 million people lost their investments in Sergei Mavrodi's, matemathician turned fraudster, first MMM pyramid scheme in the early 1990s. The first pyramid lasted around three years and collapsed a year before the 1998 default which shattered the system of short-term government bonds (GKO), and the government stopped paying its internal debt. Mavrodi was sentenced to four and a half years in prison as a result. After he was released, Sergei Mavrodi announced a new pyramid scheme in early 2011, MMM-2011, asking investors to buy so-called Mavro currency units. Several Russian officials and public figures denounced this venture as another fraudulent scheme.

Ponzi schemes and financial pyramids are technically not illegal under Russian law.