Bangladesh Bank wants audit of 9 e-commerce businesses over scams

Bangladesh Bank has sent a letter to the Ministry of Commerce asking them to appoint auditors to investigate the finances of nine e-commerce platforms that are facing allegations of financial irregularities and cheating customers.

“We told the ministry that we need a third party to audit these companies to understand the situation,” Bangladesh Bank spokesman Serajul Islam told bdnews24.com.

Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary and director of the Ministry of Commerce WTO cell, said an email from the central bank containing the advice had been sent on Sunday, prior to an official notice.

Many e-commerce sites sprang up in Bangladesh around the time the pandemic hit the country.

The stores made billions through online transactions from hundreds and thousands of customers, luring them with deep discount offers, sometimes even selling products for half the market price. Though some customers were satisfied with their purchases, others allege they are still waiting for orders to be fulfilled over a month after they were made.

The model of business and the form of fraud these companies engaged in are similar to the one set up by Evaly in 2019.

Bangladesh Bank sent a letter to the Ministry of Commerce on the financial transactions of Eorange, Dhamaka, Qcoom, Sirajganj Shop, Aladiner Prodip, BoomBoom, Adyan Mart, New.com.bd and Alesha Mart around the end of August in the wake of various allegations, said Hafizur Rahman.

The central bank has now advised the appointment of auditors to look over these finance reports.

“The issue of appointing auditors to check the finances arose during discussions. We are working on it,” Rahman said.

Some of these platforms drew in customers using offers of a 50 percent discount on motorcycles. Though they promised to deliver the motorcycles within 45 days of purchase, some Qcoom customers have been waiting for months.   

Qcoom customers have voiced their complaints on Facebook and have occasionally gathered near their offices in Dhaka’s Tejgaon to protest.

When bdnews24.com contacted Qcoom Public Relations official RJ Nirob about ten days ago regarding the issue, he said the company had run out of stock on the motorcycles and was awaiting a resupply.

Muminul Islam, an Alesha Mart customer, said on Tuesday that he had ordered two Bajaj Pulsar motorcycles from the platform for a total of Tk 200,000. They were to be delivered on Jul 20, but they still haven’t arrived.

“They keep pushing back the delivery date. I tried to stay patient, but now I’m enraged.”

Alesha Mart made a major marketing push to draw in customers, plastering ads on newspapers, televisions and even on the outside of private cars on Dhaka’s roads.

Law enforcers have, meanwhile, arrested the owners of another e-commerce site, Eorange, over allegations of fraud.

Not only are new customer allegations against Evaly surfacing every day, they have also been accused of not paying suppliers, freight movers and even their own workers.

The Criminal Investigation Department has filed a case against e-commerce company Dhamaka for embezzling nearly Tk 1.16 billion.

It has recently been alleged that, in the face of allegations they had held on to Tk 1 billion from customers, Aladiner Prodip had started to remove the money to personal mobile financial service accounts in the name of ‘refunds’. Law enforcers have suspended some of these accounts as they investigate the situation.

Those who hold senior positions at the e-commerce sites could not be reached for comment at their mobile phone numbers. But sometimes they appear on Facebook Live, where they give various assurances to customers that their transactions are safe.