Co-founder Shamima Nasrin, who took back the helm of the collapsed Ponzi scheme-like e-commerce platform Evaly two weeks ago after having secured a bail, has promised to clear all its liabilities to hundreds of thousands of customers and merchants from fresh business and investments.
The platform that exponentially grew on unprecedented burning of customers' advances, and sellers' credit had collected over Tk6,000 crore from the people over its two and half years of operational life till the mid-2021 now does not know how much it owes.
Evaly claimed that the September, 2021 arrest of the founder couple and the post-arrest unprotected status of its office resulted in a loss of its server password. And, without the password, it is impossible to assess its complete operational and financial picture.
In a virtual press conference on Thursday, Shamima Nasrin demanded the bail of her husband, co-founder and former Evaly managing director Mohammad Rassel, hoping that he as the only authorised person might help the password recovery process from the server vendor Amazon Web Service following the failure of everyone — the court-appointed previous board and Shamima herself nowadays.
Rassel, behind the bars, has been claiming to have forgotten the complex password and the "black diary" at his office room where he wrote down the password later was found nowhere.
Special auditor Hoda Vasi Chowdhury, appointed by the High Court-formed independent board led by former Justice HM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik, could not figure out to whom Evaly owes how much due to poor documentation and no access to its server.
The auditor, however, found over Tk2,300 crore outflow of the Evaly funds "unidentified" that means the destination of the gigantic sum could not be traced.
"Every single transaction and operational data is protected in Evaly server," Shamima Nasrin claimed in the press conference, further arguing "unidentified does not mean embezzlement or laundered."
The retired board chaired by Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik, submitted their remark report to the High Court on 21 September based on the special auditors' findings and their observations, experience.
According to the special audit report, Evaly now has products worth Tk25 crore in its warehouse and around Tk28 crore stuck in online payment gateways.
Amid the debate if Evaly founders merely embraced mistakes in business or had been driven by ill motives to commit a mass fraud, the outgoing board wrote, "It was apparent that the sponsors' intention for running the business was improper and malafide."
A huge portion of customers' money were spent at the founders' whims with no internal control, the board commented, adding that too many cash withdrawals totalled over Tk79 crore without proper documentation on where the money had been spent.
Alongside the apparent and popular pretext of funding the deep discounting, the loopholes also might have been created because of money laundering, and the government agencies should investigate that, the retired board noted.
In the press conference, Shamima Nasrin criticised Justice Manik for his attitude of "crime finding instead of looking into reasons of Evaly's business failure."
She, on the other hand, admired and thanked former bureaucrat Mahbub Kabir Milon who served as Evaly's court-appointed managing director for his efforts to revive the firm for the sake of paying back the customers and sellers.
Evaly, under the new board having Shamima Nasrin as the chairman and two of her family members, two representatives of the ministry of commerce and the ecommerce association of Bangladesh, is showing hopes for the revival through a compliant business model – no loss-bearing discounts and no advance from customers.
She urged 45 lakh Evaly customers and 30,000 merchants to onboard for regular buying and selling on the platform as soon as it resumes operations either through recovering the old server password or having a new server.
Having secured a comeback in regular e-commerce business and starting to make some money from operations, Evaly should have investments, Shamima Nasrin claimed.
Regarding the possibility of the revival of the collapsed firm, the special auditor in its thousands-page report said "We do not find any visibility for reviving the company until the sponsors, shareholders or any potential investors inject sufficient required cash for bringing the company in an operating condition."
Evaly's liabilities are not in hundreds of crore figure apparently, instead might be in thousands of crores.
On top of the liabilities, the negative image of Evaly in the industry also might deter investors, believes most of the industry people.
Until things unfold, Evaly's customers and sellers can only pray.