E-commerce company Dhamaka Shop has allegedly transferred around Tk50 crore, received from customers as advance payments, to bank accounts of others, according to a primary investigation of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police.
Asked if Dhamaka has siphoned off money and, if yes, then how much, CID Additional Deputy Inspector General Kamrul Ahsan told The Business Standard, "An investigation is going on. We have found some elements. I cannot say anything concrete until the investigation is finalised."
Kamrul added, "If I say the money has been laundered, you will again ask the question – how much has been laundered? That is why I want to stop you from asking the next question."
However, a reliable source involved with the CID investigation said they have got information that Dhamaka has laundered money. The investigation is now at a final stage. The CID will file a case against the e-commerce company next month.
"Dhamaka has already transferred around Tk50 crore to other bank accounts. There are some problems with its business model too. We are scrutinising account details of the e-commerce site we got from different banks and other related financial institutions," he added.
Like Dhamaka, several e-commerce companies have reportedly transferred customers' money to other accounts, the CID investigation found.
According to CID sources, Dhamaka is cheating thousands of customers out of their money with lucrative offers such as "Double Taka Vouchers", "Signature Cards" and other unusually hefty discounts.
The money collected through such fraudulent means is being siphoned out of the country, the sources added.
Like Evaly, Dhamaka, which started its journey in November last year, has received a large amount of advance payments from customers by offering big discounts ranging between 40% and 50% on various products including bikes.
According to the company's website, as of Friday, it has dangled up to 40% discounts on various products. The discounts offered on bikes and cars are now only 10%.
On the heels of a report published on 22 June by The Business Standard based on the central bank's report on Evaly, the CID started an investigation into the activities of 14 e-commerce companies in the country. Its preliminary investigation has revealed various irregularities of at least five companies, including Dhamaka and Alesha Mart.
The people engaged with the investigation said, "We have information that the transacted amounts of several e-commerce companies, including Alesha Mart, are not going to their specific accounts. The advance money they get against products is directly being deposited in merchant accounts of various foreign companies."
CID investigative officers have found conclusive evidence that the money received from sales of goods by Alisha Mart has gone directly to merchant accounts of a foreign company.
The CID additional DIG said a number of e-commerce sites have been found using merchant accounts in the disguised form. They cannot do it under any circumstances as per financial regulations.
A preliminary investigation also has found that some business entities are assisting e-commerce companies in their illegal activities.
The CID is now investigating activities of e-commerce companies such as Evaly, Alesha Mart, Dhamaka Shop, Sirajganj Shop, Aladiner Prodip, Boom Boom, Adyen Mart, Needs, Qcoom, E-orange, Dalal Plus and Bajaj Collection.
A number of banks, including Dhaka Bank, Bank Asia and Brac Bank, suspended the use of their debit, credit and prepaid cards for online transactions with 10 of the e-commerce companies.
A CID official said the banks do not feel it is safe to do business with them. That is why they suspended the use of their cards for purchasing from them. They are looking into the issue seriously.
When asked about allegations of money laundering and fraud with customers, Sirajul Islam Rana, chief operating officer of DhamakaShopping.com, told TBS, "I do not have this information. The managing director and the head of accounts and finance of the company look after it."
"I could give you the information if the accounts were under me. I only send a requisition for how much money a supplier will need, he added.
"I have been asked to visit the CID office next Sunday with my personal income tax file, NID card and bank account details," he added.
Head of Accounts and Finance of Dhamaka Aminur Hossain could not be contacted over the phone despite repeated attempts.