The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested four youths from Dhaka's Darussalam area on charge of trading cryptocurrency bitcoin, which is illegal in Bangladesh.
According to RAB, the individuals had been running a gang that had invested crores of taka collected from their so-called clients. The arrestees had been transacting more than Tk1.5 crore per month.
RAB said it busted the gang early Sunday, and recovered two laptops and two debit cards from the gang members' possessions.
The arrestees are – Hamim Prince Khan, 32, Rahul Sarkar, 21, Sanjib Dey, 28, and Md Sohel Khan, 20.
At a media brief on Sunday, RAB's media wing Director Commander Khandaker Al Moin said, "Hamim is the ringleader and he recruited others. After opening accounts on the Internet, the members of the racket had been buying and selling virtual currencies or cryptocurrencies.
"They used to transact money through mobile banking or electronic money transfer channels with some web domain holders and business circles in Bangladesh."
Commander Moin said the group was also linked to pornography purchase from the dark web, and selling them to youths.
"Claiming the cryptocurrencies very profitable, they used to run campaigns in social media. Thus, they would allure youths to illegal bitcoin trading," he added.
The RAB official said they had received complaints against the group about embezzling money in the name of "cryptocurrency training". "During the primary integration, they [gang members] confessed to investment of crores of taka by enticing the interested clients," he said.
At the press brief, RAB said Hamim has a number of virtual wallets, some which had Tk1.5 crore transactions in the last one month.
"Still 14-15 wallets are yet to be opened and checked. Suspect Hamim might have laundered several crores through these wallets," he added.
Did they have it in their blood?
All the four arrestees are from Faridpur's Bhanga upazila – a hotspot for mobile phone-based fraudulent activities. According to media reports, there are even villages in the upazila that host an entire community who make their ends meet through fraudulent activities.
RAB did not mention whether the youths have any previous record of mobile fraud, but said the youths either had an academic career in computer science and technology, or did some IT training.
In 2013, the ringleader Hamim passed BA (Honours) in English from a college in Faridpur. He acquired computer skills from youtube videos.
Hamim did a computer course in 2013. Later, he became skilled in cryptocurrency, and trained more than 50 people about bitcoin transactions, according to RAB.
At the media briefing, RAB said Hamim was also involved in virtual transactions through Litecoin, Dogecoin and Ethereum – three other popular cryptocurrencies.
Commander Moin said, "Hamim had been siphoning off a large amount of money to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada."
Hamim is also accused of credit card fraud, claiming so, the RAB official said, "He used to buy the bitcoins for illegal purposes through credit cards he hacked earlier."
The press was told that arrested Rahul Sarkar is a computer science student at a private university. He got acquainted with Hamim through social media, and later got involved in bitcoin trading in 2020. Rahul too has several virtual wallets.
The third arrestee Sanjib Dey studies at a local Faridpur college. He was also allured to the group by Hamim.
Sohel Khan used to do software and web development, and graphics designs. After joining the group, he also opened several virtual wallets.
While replying to a query, RAB told the journalists that Bitcoin is prohibited in Bangladesh, any transaction through the virtual channel is an offense in Bangladesh.