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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Online scams: Clients suffer as many fraudsters reign supreme abroad     

  • Many e-commerce firms offer double profits, 50% discounts
  • Affected MLM company clients yet to get compensation 
  • Chances of pre-2021 investors getting damages slim
  • State minister for commerce ‘unaware’ of the scams
Update : 16 Mar 2024, 12:15 AM

His mother was a banker. After she retired, her pension worth Tk80 lakh was deposited in her son Azad’s bank account.   

With his mother’s consent, Azad invested Tk10 lakh in an e-commerce firm and made a profit of Tk3 lakh. 

Later on, he invested the rest of his mother’s pension in another company named Alif World. But in that case, he did not ask for any permission. 

Azad did not stop there. Taking loans from his friends and making some of them his business partners, he invested Tk1 crore in Sofetic, an e-commerce platform.  

Instead of returning profits to their clients, Alif World and Sofetic suspended their operations and embezzled the money invested by hundreds of people like Azad and his friends.  

After losing nearly Tk1.75 crore to the two ecommerce firms, Azad was left bewildered. 

His story is from mid-2021. But he has yet to recover a single penny from the two firms since then. 

Additionally, his Tk10 lakh is still stuck at a payment gateway. 

“Even though the government was first watchful against such fraudulence by ecommerce platforms, the authorities concerned have now turned a blind eye. Some of the e-commerce firm owners are in jail, and some others are attending court hearings,” he said.    

“Many of them have fled the country, enjoying their lives there. But just think of people like us who lost lakhs or even crores of taka,” he said.  

Azad went on to say that he leads a miserable life now. 

“I can’t even face my family and friends freely now…. I’m repaying my friends by working for a private firm.” 

The man claimed that he approached many law-enforcing agencies and the Commerce Ministry, but to no avail. 

Azad is among hundreds of people whom fraudulent e-commerce firms deceived into investing with their lucrative offers.

Lucrative offers  

Many e-commerce platforms offer doubling investment in up to six months or even halving the prices of products they sell. 

For publicity, they turn to social media platforms, websites, and mobile apps. Investors in good faith fall into such traps.

To attract clients, the platforms first return deposits and profits to their investors. Some companies send products at half their prices to their clients. 

By doing so, they become trustworthy to the clients. But after a certain period, they start cheating in various ways before finally “disappearing”.

Law enforcers say controversial MLF companies including Jubok, Destiny-2000, and UniPay2U lured people with many others. 

In the course of time, fraudsters changed their strategies, and they are now preferring to cheat people through e-commerce sites. 

Cheating through online-based MLM companies is also going on.

Top e-commerce, MLM firms

Law enforcers first noticed cheating through e-commerce platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic. The fraud by the largest e-commerce firm, Evaly, was revealed then, triggering criticism from different quarters and prompting legal action.  

It was followed by the discovery of scams by Dhaka Shopping, Alesha Mart, E-orange, Sirajganj Shop, Boom Boom, Adiyan Mart, need.com, Qcoom.com, Aladiner Pradip, Ring ID, Dalal Plus, SPP World, Micro Trade, Rapid Cash, Ziko Bazar, Nirapod Shop, Alif World, Global Gain, Amus BD, Ananda Bazar, 24 Ticket and Falgun Shop BD among hundreds of e-commerce sites.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has filed cases against them. The cases are being probed. 

A CID official, preferring anonymity, said: “Other than regular cases, a number of money laundering suits have also been filed.” 

The court or the government organizations concerned will ensure how the victims will be compensated, he said.    

CID chief Mohammad Ali Miah said that the bank accounts of suspected e-commerce or MLM fraudsters are being frozen. 

Their properties are being confiscated too, he said, adding: “Not a single culprit will be spared.” 

No damages for pre-2021 scams?

Sources at the Commerce Ministry said the chances of those who invested in e-commerce platforms before 2021, getting their money back are very slim.  

Efforts are underway to help post-2021 investors get compensation, they added.  

Around Tk500 crore stuck at different payment gateways has been returned to respective clients.

When asked about the issue, State Minister for Commerce Ahasanul Islam Titu said: “Nobody informed me of the matter. The issue was not even raised in any meeting. So, I know nothing about that.

“Previous measures taken in this regard, will be followed now. In fact, I need to know about it. After that, I can tell which measures can be taken (if applicable),” he said. 

 

Fraudsters’ laving life abroad

Banani police station’s suspended inspector, Sohel Rana, was an associate of the controversial e-commerce company E-orange that misappropriated nearly Tk1,000 crore from its clients. 

After the scam of the company came to light, he trespassed into India. However, he was caught there and put into jail. 

Out on bail, he then moved to Nepal and now lives in Romania, where he invested the embezzled money in a business, sources said.

Nevertheless, his sister and E-orange Chairman Sonia Mahzabin is still incarcerated. 

Shafitech.com owner Azizul Haq and his family are in Dubai currently.

Comilla resident Masud Al Islam scammed thousands of crores of Taka through the Dubai-based app Metaverse Foreign Exchange Group (MTFE).

He is living a luxurious life in Dubai after changing his fortune through the cyber Ponzi scheme.

Alif World owner Rashedul Islam Noyon, Thale.com’s Sakib, and Ananda Bazar’s AH Khandaker Mithu, too, fled to Dubai. 

Jashim Uddin Chishty of Dhamaka now lives in the USA. 

An official at Bangladesh Police headquarters said they sought the help of Interpol to repatriate the fugitive MLM and e-commerce scammers.   

“We’ve already written to Interpol in this regard. But the process is quite long. We’ve also contacted the countries where they have taken refuge,” he added.   

Slack coordination behind the scams

Despite a taskforce already being in place to monitor and take measures against fraudsters and their companies, it is almost inactive. 

Sources said the government organizations and agencies concerned point at each other when it comes to looking into the issue. 

An official of the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), operating under the Bangladesh Bank, said they monitor illegal online transactions regularly. 

“We submit more than 100 reports to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission every month. We’re not entitled to take the next course of action,” he said.

A concerted effort is a must to stop online scams, he said, adding that mass awareness is a must to fight the criminal act.   

National Cyber Security Agency Director General Abu Sayed Md Kamruzzaman said the government organizations concerned cannot be blamed for the online scams. 

“The general public, too, has to be aware of the fraudsters. The government can’t stop this alone,” he concluded.

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