People who invested a total of Tk8,500 crore to Destiny-like organisations such as Jubok and UniPay2U seem to have lost their money forever with the authorities showing no signs of recouping initiatives.
Jubok owes Tk2,500 crore to the investors, while UniPay2U debts amount to around Tk6,000 crore.
The government is yet to appoint an administrator to recover Jubok's money, while a court order to get back money from UniPay2U goes unheard.
Jubok began its operations in 1994, and closed in 2006.
Started in 2009, UniPay2U was shut a couple of years later just before facing a fraud case by the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2011.
In January 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed the finance ministry to appoint an administrator in Jubok. Almost three years on, her directive is yet to be carried out as the two ministries do not see eye to eye on the issue.
None of the 3.5 lakh investors of Jubok has got back a single penny of their investment of Tk2,500 crore.
On the other hand, a Dhaka court in 2019 in the verdict of an ACC case directed the authorities to arrange refunds for the defrauded investors. But no initiative has been taken yet to return any money to the investors. The deceived customers have been approaching the concerned authorities for months, but there has been no assurance.
Jubok started its activities in 1994 with 40 directors under the leadership of Chairman Abu Mohammad Saeed and Executive Director Hossain Al Masum, without any government registration.
The company got registered in 1997 under the Societies Registration Act.
From its inception, Jubok started to lure in monthly deposits at a minimum of Tk500 per member, promising to pay Tk10,000 in annual interest against a deposit of Tk1 lakh.
The company also collected money with the promise of housing project plots.
Before the closure in 2006 on charges of running illegal banking activities, Jubok had started at least 20 ventures with Tk2,500 crore it collected from people.
Appointment of an administrator in Jubok is still up in the air as the finance and commerce ministries could not agree as to whose job it was.
As Jubok got government registration under the Societies Registration Act that is under the Ministry of Commerce, the finance ministry says the commerce ministry is responsible to appoint the administrator.
On the other hand, the commerce ministry says the finance ministry should appoint the administration in Jubok, as the company was conducting illegal banking activities.
Is the court order not enough?
Registered under the Companies Act, UniPay2U started its operations in October 2009. Though it was able to operate its fraud operation for about 13 months, the company collected Tk6,000 crore from investors.
The investors were enticed with the promise of doubling their investment in less than a year through virtual gold business. Investors were told by UniPay2Uthat their money would double every 10 months from investments in gold trades abroad.
Anyone willing to invest in UniPay2U had to open an account with a non-refundable Tk42,000 on the company's website. Investors could open unlimited numbers of accounts. A maximum of Tk12.6 lakh could be invested in one account.
Many of the investors opened multiple accounts. And there are also examples where one individual opened over 100 accounts.
UniPay2U appointed several thousand agents in four metropolitan cities, including the capital Dhaka, to defraud prospective investors. The agents received commissions on the amount of investment they could collect. They used to collect investors in multi-level marketing methods.
UniPay2U was sued by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2011 after allegations of fraudulent activity and corruption.
According to the case statement, the UniPay2U authorities had laundered Tk3,500 crore of investors' money. It also said that another Tk2,500 crore was within the country.
On 23 January 2019, the Dhaka Special Judge's Court jailed six officials of UniPay2U Bangladesh Limited including its chairman and managing director. The court also fined the company top brass around Tk2,702 crore.
The court also directed the authorities – including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and the Bangladesh Bank – to return this money to the defrauded investors.
It also asked the government to bring back the money smuggled abroad and distribute it among the defrauded UniPay2U investors.