BB asked to provide info of 9 e-commerce companies

The commerce ministry on Tuesday sent a letter to the Bangladesh Bank, seeking information on the latest financial situation of nine e-commerce companies, including Alesha Mart.

The other eight companies are Dhamaka, E-orange, Sirajganj Shop, Aladiner Prodip, Qcoom, BoomBoom, Adyan Mart and Need.com.bd.

In the letter, the ministry sought information on the total liabilities of the companies to the buyers and merchants and the amount of current and fixed capital of the companies.

It also sought to know whether the companies had transferred money elsewhere, said Hafizur Rahman, head of the Central Digital Commerce Cell of the ministry.

Hafizur Rahman, also an additional secretary to the government, said there are allegations against these companies of not delivering goods after taking advance payment from the buyers and of not paying the arrears even after purchasing the goods from the merchants.

In this situation, the latest financial information of the companies has been sought from the Bangladesh Bank to determine the next course of action, he added.

Even after the issuance of the government’s e-commerce guideline, Alesha Mart violated it by posting an advertisement on the company’s Facebook page, offering a 33% discount to the buyers if they deposit the price in advance to the company’s own bank account. The commerce ministry forced the company to withdraw the offer just after it was posted recently.

Announcing a discount of up to 50% at home and abroad, Alesha Card is selling cards to customers taking an advance of around Tk8,000 from each of them. This is also against the e-commerce policy of the commerce ministry.

Ministry officials verbally instructed the company’s owners to stop marketing of the card, but the company has not stopped yet.

A senior Supreme Court counsel has sent a legal notice to government organisations and the managing director of Alesha Holdings urging them to stop the marketing of Alesha Card as it violates the country’s e-commerce policy and contradicts law and penal code.

Muhidul Kabir, the Supreme Court counsel, said that the legal notice was sent on 21 August to the Secretary of the information ministry, the managing director of Alesha Holdings Limited, joint stock registrar of the commerce ministry and the secretary-general of e-Cab as defendants.

If no action is taken within four days of receiving the notification, the notice stated, a writ petition will be filed with the High Court, seeking legal remedy. According to the notice, no gift voucher is allowed without the consent of Bangladesh Bank under the e-commerce policy.

Evaly, another e-commerce platform, has also been accused of not delivering the product after taking money from customers in advance. Bangladesh Bank has collected information of 10 bank accounts of the company during inspection. On 14 March, the amount of cash in those accounts was only Tk2 crore.

Until 15 July, the total liabilities of E-valy, including advances taken from customers, debts to suppliers and other business debts, amounted to Tk543 crore.

According to the company’s liability statement submitted to the commerce ministry, the total value of its movable and immovable assets is worth Tk121 crore. Excluding all movable and immovable assets of Evaly from its total debt, the deficit stands at more than Tk422 crore. In other words, if all the movable and immovable assets of the company are sold, the company would be able to pay only 22.30% of its debts to the customers and merchants.

Following the publication of a The Business Standard report on 21 June on the central bank’s inspection report, various banks and financial institutions including BRAC Bank, City Bank and Bank Asia suspended their debit and credit card transactions with a total of 10 e-commerce companies including Evaly.

All the nine e-commerce companies about whom the commerce ministry has sought information from the central bank in its letter are among those 10 e-commerce companies with which banks have suspended transactions.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police is investigating the money laundering allegations against the companies. CID officials told TBS that they had found evidence of illegal MLM activities against 14 companies, including Evaly, and money laundering against several companies, including Dhamaka and E-orange.

Meanwhile, two owners of E-orange have been arrested in cases filed by customers. It is learned that some of the owners of Dhamaka are absconding abroad.

The commerce ministry sent a letter to E-orange on 17 August seeking various financial information including debts to customers and merchants. Although the ministry sought a reply within seven days, it has not yet received any, said officials of the ministry.

Alesha Mart is selling a new type of card with an advance of around Rs 6,000 from the customers, which the company is promoting to get discounts in various cases.

Earlier the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) of the central bank has sought bank account details of 11 e-commerce companies, including the Alesha Mart. 

Others were Dhamaka Shop, Sirajganj Shop, Aladiner Prodip, Boom Boom, Adyen Mart, Needs, QCoom, Dalal Plus, EOrange and Bajaj Collection. 

BFIU, in a notice on 29 June, asked the banks to send detailed information of seven online merchants’ bank accounts within a week.

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