HC orders freeze on Evaly asset sale, transfer

The High Court has imposed a moratorium on any sale of Evaly assets, responding to an appeal filed by a disgruntled customer.

The court order issued by Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar on Wednesday also prohibits the transfer of assets held by Evaly, a scam-tainted e-commerce company.

In addition to the moratorium, the court also asked the authorities why Evaly should not be liquidated as sought by the petition.

Evaly Limited, the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, Nagad, bKash, the Bangladesh Competition Commission, the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, Bangladesh Bank and the commerce secretary have been ordered to respond to the rule.

The next hearing has been set for Sept 30 and the relevant parties have been told to submit their responses before that date.

Their presence will be required when the court considers the formation of a board of directors to take control of Evaly’s business and management following the petitioner’s plea. 

The Evaly customer ordered a washing machine at Tk 33,308 on Evaly’s mobile app. After the full payment on May 30 and May 31 through bKash and Nagad, Evaly issued an online receipt of the money, according to the writ petition.

The petitioner contacted Evaly when the company did not deliver the product or refund. As nearly four months have passed, Evaly only gave the customer assurance of delivery or refund.

The customer finally decided to move the court fearing that the issue will go out of control, said Sayed Mahsib Mossain, one of the lawyers for the petitioner.

Evaly, founded in 2018, has racked up a debt of Tk 5.43 billion to its suppliers and customers.

Managing Director Mohammad Rassel and his wife Shamima Nasrin were arrested on Sept 16 over a case filed at Dhanmondi Police Station by a customer who alleged he was defrauded of Tk 310,000 and faced death threats when he attempted to complain to Rassel.

On Sept 17, another case was filed at Gulshan Police Station against 20 Evaly officials by a supplier who claimed he was due to be paid Tk 3.6 million.

Police initially received a three-day remand to question Rassel and Nasrin over the Dhanmondi case. At the end of that term, they received a second remand of one day to interrogate Rassel over the Gulshan case. Nasrin, a chairman of the e-commerce company, was sent to jail. 

Meanwhile, the Dhanmondi offices of the company were shut down on Saturday, with staff directed to work from home until further notice.

On Monday the High Court had raised questions about the government's efforts to curb money laundering schemes operating in the name of e-commerce, multi-level marketing and microcredit businesses in response to the Evaly scandal

The court also raised questions about the government's willingness to recover the embezzled funds from various banks and financial institutions.

Evaly’s system, which thrived on stupendous cashback offers, came under scrutiny after the Ministry of Commerce and Bangladesh Bank opened a probe into their workings and found a significant amount of embezzlement.

Evaly appeared to be lying low after the government announced new steps to regulate digital marketplaces, leaving scores of disgruntled customers in the lurch.

The Anti-Corruption Commission is also investigating claims from the commerce ministry that Evaly misappropriated Tk 3.38 billion from customers and merchants, and began investigations on Jul 8.

The court, on Jul 15, ordered a travel ban on Rassel and his wife, following a plea from the anti-graft watchdog on Jul 9.