Under the garb of e-commerce, a company named Evaly has been visibly running Multi Level Marketing (MLM) activities, which now possibly is going to be exposed as a Ponzi Scheme. According to media reports, the office of the so-called digital marketplace in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi area has remained under lock-and-key for days as the company is already tainted by allegations of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.
Media reports claim, founder of Evaly, Mohammad Rassel might have already gone off the radar. Meanwhile, buyers and sellers have kicked up a storm on Evaly’s Facebook page, while many have physically gone to the company’s Dhanmondi office.
Representatives of various suppliers and customers have been stopping by the Dhanmondi office regularly with hopes of getting their money back but to no avail so far. Calls on the company’s hotline are also going unanswered, customers complained.
Seeking anonymity, a customer said, he went to Evaly to make inquiries about his orders as he booked a OnePlus brand mobile phone worth BDT 34,000 for BDT 18,000 and also booked two expensive watches. But four months on, he still hasn’t received any of the products.
Security personnel at the building said the Evaly office has been closed since Jun 26 due to the COVID-19 epidemic. There is ‘no possibility’ of the office reopening before Eid, according to them.
A notice on the company’s Facebook page, as well as its Dhanmondi office, said the employees were all working from home in compliance with the government’s health regulations due to the pandemic. As a result, in-person services would be provided from the office.
Since its inception in 2018, Evaly has risen to prominence by offering various products at unbelievably discounted price, provided that payment is made at least one or two months in advance.
In a short period of time, the platform attracted droves of buyers for a range of fancy products, including motorcycles, refrigerators, ACs and cars all over the country.
Money was taken in advance for low-priced items but from the beginning, Evaly was notorious for keeping most of its customers waiting to receive their products. After months of dallying, it would eventually agree to refund some of the money but even that would take months to get back to the customers.
The lack of laws and policies on e-commerce meant that the company went unpunished even though the government was aware of the irregularities.
However, at the beginning of July, the Ministry of Commerce announced new regulations to quell the possibility of any scam or other malpractices. E-commerce platforms are now required to make delivery within 48 hours of taking an order, while advance payments have also been capped at 10 percent of a product’s price.
Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has already started an investigation against Evaly on charges of embezzling and laundering BDT 3.37 billion worth of customers’ advance payments and dues to merchants.
Prompted by the Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh Bank recently submitted a report which put the company’s dealings into stark relief.
As of Mar 14, 2021, Evali had racked up assets worth BDT 916.9 million against liabilities totaling BDT 4.06 billion. Of this, Evaly owed BDT 2.13 billion to customers and BDT 1.79 billion to merchants.
After receiving the report, the commerce ministry requested the ACC to launch an investigation and take legal action against the company.
Meanwhile, the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-Cab) on July 15, 2021 sent a letter to Evaly in the face of numerous customer complaints and asked for a response within seven days.
According to news reports, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has imposed a travel ban on Evaly Chairperson Shamima Nasrin, and Managing Director Mohammad Rassel as it investigates the e-commerce firm on allegations of embezzlement of BDT 3.38 billion.
On July 15, 2021, ACC Deputy Director ASM Sajjad Hossain notified the police’s Special Branch (SB) and the Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP) about the matter in a letter.
The graft watchdog has instructed authorities concerned to remain alert so that the two cannot leave the country, as it suspects that they may try to flee abroad.
On July 14, the Ministry of Commerce asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to file a case against Evaly over the embezzlement BDT 3.38 billion owed to merchants, which was taken as an advance from customers.
The ministry also separately wrote to the ACC to initiate relevant legal actions against the online marketplace over the irregularities reported by Bangladesh Bank.
Talking to this correspondent, a government official said, there are serious discrepancies in the activities of Evaly and as the matter is further worsening with visibly no trace of billions of takas, authorities may now consider taking Evaly Chairperson Shamima Nasrin, and Managing Director Mohammad Rassel into custody. It said, Evaly is not any e-commerce company. Instead, it is a Ponzi Scheme.
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