MOSCOW, March 25 - RAPSI. The police in the Trans-Baikal Territory have established the names of the criminals who stole around 70 million rubles ($2.3 million) invested in the MMM virtual stock market game, the Russian Interior Ministry announced on Monday.

"In October 2011 to August 2012, a 25-year-old resident of Chita ran a criminal group in the Trans-Baikal Territory which aimed to draw systematic benefits from promoting the MMM virtual stock market game and encouraging people to invest in it," the ministry's statement reads.

The group earned 50 million rubles ($1.6 million) from this, the police said, adding that a fraud case had also been opened against unidentified persons who earned over 20 million rubles ($646,620) by encouraging people to invest in the MMM online pyramid.

Between 10 and 15 million people lost their investments in Sergei Mavrodi's, matemathician turned fraudster, first MMM pyramid scheme in the early 1990s. 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.

In February 2013, access to Sergei Mavrodi's websites in the Trans-Baikal Territory was blocked by a court order.

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