- Case filed against ringID' CEO, MD and 25 others
- Amount could be higher
- The platform has stopped payment to the members
- Investors now rushing to sell their membership
Controversial social media platform ringID allegedly embezzled over Tk302 crore in just three months – April, May and June – this year by luring people into its Ponzi scheme of promising online income.
The platform stopped selling memberships and money transactions from 23 September after The Business Standard and other media brought their fraudulent activities to light.
The platform received Tk102 crore just in June. They offered people the chance to earn money online, but in reality it was a multi-level marketing (MLM) fraud, several bank statements of the platform reveal.
Several law enforcement agencies, who have been keeping an eye on ringID for the last one month, told TBS that the actual amount embezzled might be higher. Bank statements from other months are now being scrutinised.
Meanwhile, a victim has filed a case against 25 people, including ringID owners – Shariful Islam, his wife Irin Islam and brother Saiful Islam – on allegation of embezzling crores of taka.
Plaintiff Ankhi Begum lodged the case with Bhatara Police Station under the Digital Security Act and the Multi-Level Marketing Control Act on Thursday, mentioning ten names.
Sazedur Rahman, officer-in charge of Bhatara Police Station of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told TBS that they have already received the case statement of the plaintiff and are investigating the matter.
According to the first information report of the case, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) will investigate the case. Another source confirmed that the CID had already arrested Saiful Islam, the second accused in the case.
The other accused are Salahuddin, Ahsan Habib, Rafiqul Islam, Nazmul Hasan, Abdus Samad, Redwan Rahman, Rahul. They are all officials and agents of the platform.
According to the case statement, an organised digital fraud gang under the banner of ringID used to collect money through e-transactions, and sold gold coins through the unauthorised MLM business.
Ankhi Begum, her two brothers and a nephew invested Tk15 lakh in phases in 2019. One of her expatriate brothers, SI Tutul, invested around Tk13.5 lakh from home and abroad and he was able to withdraw a small amount only once. But they did not get any benefit or refund from ringID afterwards.
Earlier on 28 September, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) of the Bangladesh Bank sought the bank details of ringID when the CID requested for their bank details. The BFIU also asked banks to inform if there are any bank accounts belonging to ringID Distribution Limited and ringID BD Limited.
"However, people are aware of Evaly or Eorange, that these e-commerce platforms embezzled over hundreds of crores of taka. But just in the name of video streaming or advertisement, ringID grabbed more than these e-commerce platforms. The scam is really big," a source said.
"Thousands of people from home and abroad have invested crores of taka crazily after ringID authority announced that they would shut down the coin buying offer from 23 July. People bought the coins before sales ended and thus fell into the trap," he added.
How it embezzles money
ringID, which follows a typical MLM model but calls itself a "community business", multiplies the number of its members, offering current ones Tk1,500 to Tk1,700 for adding a new member.
They give money to students for viewing and sharing adverts, adding new members to ringID, selling its products and coin transactions.
Lured by hefty earning offers, existing members assemble their family members, friends and acquaintances on the ringID platform.
Under the brand promoter of community jobs, ringID now offers two types of memberships – Silver and Gold.
For a Silver category membership, ringID charges Tk12,000 and gives an option to earn Tk250 per day by watching 50+ advertisements. For a gold membership, it takes Tk22,000 and gives an option to earn Tk500 each day by watching 100+ ads.
Through this system, a Silver member can earn Tk7,500 a month and a Gold member earns Tk15,000, excluding the internet cost, Mustafijur Rahman, a ringID agent in Sylhet, told The Business Standard on Sunday.
The transaction happens through mobile financial services, such as bKash, Nagad, Rocket and SureCash etc, and a mobile number is a major tool of the business.
Transactions also happen through ringID's own agents across the country.
Sources said the platform now has around 600 agents of three types - Silver, Gold and Diamond.
For Silver category agents, ringID charges Tk1 lakh, while the fee is Tk2 lakh and Tk5 lakh for Gold and Diamond agents respectively.
In addition, the company also has a digital coin transaction business in the ringID application.
The value of each coin is Tk86. Members can convert coins to taka and can cash out through MFS providers.
ringID stops cash payment to the members
Showing the server maintenance notice, ringID stopped cash payments to its members once its fraudulent activities were disclosed in different news media including The Business Standard.
Members who have a net balance in their account have not been able to cash out from any agents concerned since September 13.
Md Baha Uddin Pable, a ringID member and resident of Bhola, posted on his Facebook that he has not been able to withdraw his cash for the last 17 days despite repeated attempts.
Stating his disappointment, Md Shuvo Ahamed from Tangail said in his Facebook status that he sent his ID balance to an agent to encash it, but has not been given the money in the last two weeks.
He said, "Now I'm out of money as I have invested all of my savings into buying the membership. I cannot even bear my mobile cost now."
Users rushing to sell membership
Many ringID users are now rushing to sell their membership to others.
Some of them have already got back their capital while others have yet to get a penny.
Tahmid Ahmed from Jashore posted a status on a ringID group, saying that he wants to sell his gold membership which he bought a month ago.
He bought it for Tk 22,000 and now it has a balance of Tk4,000. But he offered to sell it at only Tk22,000.
Ashraful Islam Imran, a ringID user from Jhenaidah district, also posted a status on the ringID community jobs Facebook group wishing to sell his silver and gold membership which had Tk750 and Tk2,000 respectively.
Md Arif Sheikh of Gazipur, Saikat from Narsingdi and Bisharot Ahmed of Kushtia are among the many users who are now rushing to leave the ringID platform.