RAB took the online market place's Managing Director Mohammad Rassel and his wife Chairperson Shamima Nasrin
After buyers, merchants, and debtors wore themselves out waiting for refunds, payments, and deliveries, law enforcement on Thursday finally went knocking on the door of Evaly Managing Director Mohammad Rassel and his wife Shamima Nasrin.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested the couple after conducting a raid at their flat in Mohammadpur of the capital at 4pm.
Law enforcement conducted the raid hours after an Evaly customer Arif Baker brought charges of fraud and issuance of death threats against Rassel and Nasrin in a case filed with the Gulshan police station in the morning.
According to the case statement, the plaintiff noticed Evaly’s advertisement in May this year, following which he made orders worth Tk310,000 from the site.
As of Thursday, Evaly had not delivered his products.
Baker contacted Evaly and Rassel, to which the managing director allegedly responded with death threats, the statement adds.
The case claims financial damages as well as mental stress due to the incident.
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On the same day, a Dhaka court directed the Gulshan police to submit a probe report in this regard on October 21, according to Sub Inspector Alomgir Hossain, general recording officer of the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court.
Additional Metropolitan Magistrate Muhammed Asaduzzaman Noor fixed the date after taking the First Information Report (FIR) and other documents of the case into cognizance.
After the duo were taken to RAB headquarters, its spokesperson Commander Khondokar Al Moin told reporters that the couple had been arrested based on previous complaints of fraud and embezzlement.
“From his [Rassel’s] possession, some business documents were recovered… After initial interrogation, according to the law, the duo will be handed over to respective police station,” he added.
RAB Legal and Media wing Assistant Director ANM Imran Khan told Dhaka Tribune that another raid was likely to be carried out at the Evaly headquarters in Sobhanbagh.
But till the filing of this report, no raids had been conducted at the Evaly office.
In a press briefing a few days ago, Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary to the Commerce Ministry, said that Evaly had violated numerous provisions of the Penal Code 1860, the Digital Security Act, and the Consumer Rights Protection Act.
He told Dhaka Tribune as Evaly had violated these laws, the matter has been handed over to law enforcement agencies and the intervention of the Home Ministry will be sought in this regard.
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Mixed reaction from customers
Upon hearing news of the raid, several customers gathered outside Rassel’s building in Mohammadpur and chanted slogans, protesting against the arrest.
Rana Sarker, who has invested Tk11 lakh into Evaly in the last seven months, was present at the scene.
“I do not know what to do now as the company chief has been arrested. I have no hope of getting the money back as the fate of all failed MLM companies like Evaly is the same,” he said.
Customers usually do not get their money back once the chief of such a controversial organization is arrested and their assets are frozen, protesters said.
Abu Talha, another customer of Evaly, said he has applied for refund and submitted the cheque to his bank, but the Tk3 lakh has yet to be deposited into his account.
“Evaly CEO Rassel should have been given the opportunity to return our money. His arrest leaves us in uncertainty. I took the money from many people and invested in the e-commerce platform, now how will I return their money?” he said, bursting into tears in front of Rassel’s house.
Shofiul Islam, another customer from Rajshahi, said: “I think Rassel wants to stay behind bars for his own safety as he has crores of debt.”
Jamil Hossain, a customer of Evaly who had ordered a bike in January, has not received his product yet.
“Rassel is a fraud. He abused our trust and bagged our money!” he said.
Kabir Ahmed Rimon, a private university student who ordered an LED TV, two bikes, two deep freezers and an air conditioner back in May, said he does not think he will get his money back.
“As RAB has arrested them, the legal procedure will take a long time. In total, I have nine unfulfilled orders. I posted on Evaly’s Facebook group for help but a moderator deleted the post,” he said.
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How things went south for Evaly
Evaly Managing Director Mohammad Rassel and Chairperson Shamima Nasrin were first sued for fraud and harassment on August 25, but complaints against e-commerce platform had been making the rounds on social media long before.
According to Evaly, the company has Tk543 crore worth of liabilities — much higher than the amount found by an initial probe of Bangladesh Bank.
Of this, it owes Tk311 crore to customers and Tk206 crore to merchants.
Following the central bank report, the Commerce Ministry asked the Home Ministry to file a case against Evaly over the alleged embezzlement of Tk338 crore taken as advance from customers.
Several banks, including Brac Bank, Bank Asia, Dhaka Bank, City Bank, Mutual Trust Bank, and Prime Bank have already suspended transactions with Evaly.
According to Rassel, who repeatedly took to social media to garner support, most of the liabilities had been incurred due to business development and promotional expenses.
However, former employees of the company said Evaly had spent money lavishly on corporate gifts and tours.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has also written to several government organizations seeking documents on Evaly.
Earlier, a Dhaka court also banned Rassel and Nasrin from travelling abroad amid an ongoing probe into charges of embezzlement.
Fahim Reza Shovon, Zisan Bin Liaquat, DS Sourav, and Sanaul Islam Tipu contributed to this report.