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Evaly boss Rassel planned to declare bankruptcy: RAB

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-09-17 14:45:18 BdST

Mohammad Rassel, the embattled MD of e-commerce platform Evaly, was planning to file for bankruptcy if the company failed to clear its financial obligations amid allegations of embezzlement, according to the Rapid Action Batallion.

Rassel was also seeking to enhance Evaly's 'brand value' by building a large customer base with an eye on selling the business, with all its liabilities, to a foreign company, Commander Khandaker Al Moin, director of the RAB's law and media wing, told reporters on Friday.

“He also planned to list the company and push its liabilities to the stock market at the end of its third year in business."

RAB arrested Rassel and his wife Shamima Nasrin, also the chairman of the company, on Thursday in connection with a lawsuit filed by a customer alleging fraud. They were later interrogated at the RAB headquarters.

"Even though a report found Evaly to be Tk 4.03 billion in debt until Feb 28, he (Rassel) said the liabilities amounted to Tk 10 billion during the preliminary interrogation,” said Moin.

Rassel and his wife were handed over to Gulshan police after the media briefing.

A man named Arif Baker filed the case claiming that he saw Evaly’s advertising and made orders worth Tk 310,000 from the site. The orders have yet to be fulfilled, long after they were made.

Baker contacted the Evaly offices and its CEO over the purchases and he responded with death threats, “frightening” the man, according to the police.

During the raid, about 50 people, identifying themselves as Evaly clients, demonstrated outside Rassel’s home demanding his release.

They said the law enforcers should not have arrested him because he had sought time to deliver their products and the customers would have benefitted had he been given the time. Since its inception in 2018, Evaly has faced a debt of Tk 5.43 billion to its suppliers and customers.

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.

EVALY NECK-DEEP IN DEBT: RAB

Rassel used to teach at a tuition centre from 2009 to 2013. He later started working in a bank, according to the RAB. Then in 2017, he left the job and launched his own business, selling children's products.

“He earned Tk 10 million from the business and initiated the Evaly platform with that meagre amount.”

Rassel had to spend Tk 50 million per month to pay the company's 2,000 staff, 1,300 temporary staff, office rent and other expenses, RAB officials said.

“As of now, Rassel hasn't made any profit, but the company's debt gradually increased. His company is neck-deep in debt.”

But Rassel could not provide any satisfactory answer to how he would repay his customers, said Moin.

The Evaly boss agreed that repaying the advance amount or returning the products he took from the people would be a 'complicated matter', the RAB official added.

“Authorities are monitoring the issue. We hope the Evaly customers will get back their money.”

As part of a marketing policy, Rassel used to maintain friendly relations with influential people, according to the RAB.

"He wanted Evaly to become the top e-commerce site in South Asia and tried to create market value. His CSR programme, sponsorship -- everything was done with the hard-earned money people invested in the platform. Rassel never paid for those programmes from his own pocket."

Both Rassel and his wife used to draw a salary of Tk 500,000 and drove a Range Rover and an Audi car at company expense.

He owns property worth millions in Savar, the RAB said.