Bangladesh arrests five with ties to cybercrimes, illicit digital currency

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2021-06-13 16:34:46 BdST


Five people, including a foreign national, have been arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department over laundering a significant amount of money through the BIGO Live and Likee livestreaming apps by offering pornographic content.

The Cyber Police Centre arrested the suspects during raids in parts of Dhaka on Friday.

Four of the detainees have been identified as Mostafa Saif Reza, 26, Md Arif Hossain, 27, SM Nazmul and Asma Ul Husna Shejuti, 28. An unidentified foreign national was also arrested.

“During our investigation we found that these apps are usually used by young people here and Bangladeshi expatriates abroad,” Jamil Ahmed, deputy director-general of the Cyber Police Centre, said in a news conference on Sunday.

“BIGO Live has two kinds of IDs – a broadcaster ID and a supporter, or sender ID. Young people use the broadcast IDs to live stream. The live streams were used for various obscenities under the guise of entertainment.”

“Those who streamed under the supporter or sender IDs could be gifted a digital currency called ‘diamonds’. They could then convert those diamonds to real currency and earn a significant amount in this way illegally.”

Singapore-based BIGO Technology said in a statement it was conducting a thorough review on this case and will work with relevant law-enforceing agencies “in whatever way we can”.

The company said it has a “zero-tolerance policy” against criminal activities, regardless of whether or not the person is involved with any of its local agency partners.

“We will cooperate closely with the law enforcement agencies and the government for upholding regional and national laws and values while at the same time bringing significant opportunity and value to a new generation of users.”

The group operating in Bangladesh targeted youths and Bangladeshi expatriates living abroad, Jamil Ahmed said.

Users were lured in by promises of chatting with “live streamers”. They would have to purchase the virtual currency called ‘diamonds’ to do so and pay the streamers these diamonds to enter the chat room. The diamonds could be bought through mobile financial services or through other means from a number of agencies under different names. An initial investigation suggests there are several such agencies in Bangladesh, police said.

Over 100,000 Bangladeshi users and expatriate Bangladeshis buy virtual currency through online banking, hundis, or other methods. The system enables them to launder millions of taka every month, an initial investigation suggests.

The CID said the detainees have confessed to being directly involved with this business.

The names of many others involved in the racket have been discovered through the interrogations and an investigation of their bank accounts show transactions of over Tk 1 billion in the past year.

Two mobile phones, two laptops, a car, seven credit cards, six chequebooks and approximately Tk 50,460 were seized from detainee Nazmul.

Two mobile phones and a laptop were seized from Arif Hossain, one of the detainees.

Four mobile phones and two laptops were confiscated from detainees Mostafa Saif Reza and Ashma Ul Husna Shejuti.

The CID says cases have been filed against the detainees under the Digital Security Act and the Pornography Act at Paltan Police Station.