'What about the money they took?' HC asks about steps to recover e-commerce funds

The High Court has called into question the government's efforts to curb money laundering schemes operating in the name of e-commerce, multi-level marketing (MLM) and microcredit businesses in the wake of the Evaly scandal.

The court also raised questions about the government's willingness to recover the embezzled funds from various banks and financial institutions on Monday during the hearing of a writ petition seeking directions to identify moneylenders across the country who were charging high rates of interest.

The virtual bench of Justice Abu Taher Md Saifur Rahman and Justice Md Zakir Hossain made the remarks in light of another writ petition accusing a few e-commerce platforms, including Evaly and Eorange, of misappropriating customer payments.

Lawyer Syed Sayedul Haque Suman, who had filed the writ petition on Sept 7, appeared at the hearing, while Deputy Attorney General Noor Us Sadiq represented the state.

The court stressed the need for deep scrutiny of the matter and expressed its intention to issue a rule on the inaction in stopping informal lending at high-interest rates.

DAG Sadiq then pointed to the arrests of the bosses of Ehsan Group and Evaly, drawing the ire of the judges.

The court in turn highlighted the plight of the customers who were lured into giving away their money to the dubious businesses.

"Those [who are embezzling the money] will go to the police station and spend their nights in jail. But what about the money that they took?" Justice Saifur Rahman said.

In the preliminary hearing last week, the court had asked the writ petitioner's lawyer who the high-interest lenders were and how they were carrying out their business.

Lawyer Suman presented the relevant information on Monday.

Elaborating on the information received from the Microcredit Regulatory Authority, he said that from July 2007 to January this year, the authorities issued micro-credit certificates to 746 organisations. Of these, the certificates of 134 organisations have been cancelled between January 2009 and February this year.