The Bangladesh Bank has ordered freezing 14 bank accounts related to Dhamakashopping.com, including the personal bank accounts of its managing director Jasim Uddin Chishti on information of money laundering by the e-commerce company.
Of the frozen accounts, five are in the name of Jasim Uddin, seven in the name of Invariant Telecom Bangladesh Ltd, one each in the names of Micro Trade, Micro Food and Beverage.
Although Dhamaka started business in November last year, the e-commerce firm is yet to open a bank account of its own and instead has been collecting money from buyers through these accounts.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police earlier this month requested the central bank to freeze the bank accounts after the intelligence agency in its preliminary investigation found information about the laundering of Tk50 crore from these accounts.
Humayun Kabir, special superintendent of police at the Organised Crime Department of the CID, confirmed the news to The Business Standard.
For the time being, the bank accounts have been frozen for 30 days. The central bank's Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit told the CID on Sunday that if the accounts need to be frozen for a longer period, it will be enforced by a court ruling.
On Monday last week, five officials, including the company's Chief Operating Officer Sirajul Islam Rana, were banned from traveling abroad and their national identity (NID) cards also were blocked.
The CID has also written to the central bank requesting to freeze the bank accounts of the five officials. The company's MD Jasim Uddin is already abroad.
According to sources, five of the frozen bank accounts are with City Bank, three with Brac Bank and Dutch-Bangla Bank each, and one with Eastern Bank Limited, South-East Bank and Prime Bank each.
CID sources said Dhamaka has transferred huge sums of money received from customers from various other accounts, alongside laundering abroad.
In its investigation, the CID has found that Dhamaka authorities have transferred Tk28 crore to the account of another company named Micro Food and Beverages in the name of investment. The money was later transferred from that account as well, the sources added.
CID officials said Dhamakashopping has no licence for doing e-commerce business. The company was illegally collecting money from customers in the name of Invariant Telecom Bangladesh Limited.
Investigators have confirmed that e-commerce business is not allowed under the licence that Invariant Telecom has.
That the Dhamaka authorities did not open any bank account in the name of the online store and instead collected money from customers though other companies' accounts was a ploy to siphon off money from the country in a planned manner, investigators suspect.
Abdul Waheed Tamal, general secretary of the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB), told TBS, "We have already served a show cause notice on Dhamaka as the firm is following a business model like that of Evaly and there are a lot of allegations against it. We will cancel Dhamaka's membership, if
we are confirmed about money laundering by the company."
According to CID officials, about Tk589 crore has been transacted in a single account of Invariant Telecom Bangladesh Ltd with Southeast Bank. But, on 27 June this year, the balance in the account was only Tk93,731.
The CID has also received complaints that customers who have received refund cheques following non-delivery of products despite advance payments are not being able to withdraw the money due to a lack of balance in the bank accounts.
Dhamaka started its journey in November last year and has reportedly collected a hefty amount of money in advance from customers with offers ranging from 40-50% discounts on various products including cars and bikes.
The company also offered 35% discount on cars of various renowned brands including Mercedes-Benz.
Visiting the company's website on Monday, it was seen that Dhamaka was still trying to attract customers with discounts on various products including motorcycles.