Rogue e-commerce Sites: HC blasts govt for delayed action
"The government is taking action. But when? After I have become penniless?"
The High Court yesterday pilloried the government for its failure to take action in good time against companies that embezzled people's money.
"The government is taking action. But when? After I have become penniless," said the HC bench of Justice Abu Taher Md Saifur Rahman and Justice Md Zakir Hossain during the hearing of a writ petition.
The comment came on the day Supreme Court lawyer Md Anwarul Islam Badhon filed a writ petition with the HC seeking its directive for forming an e-commerce regulatory authority for oversight on the fast-growing industry.
The petition was made as public interest litigation: the National Digital Commerce Policy 2018 has a mandate to establish an e-commerce watchdog but the government has not taken any steps to that end.
In the petition, Badhon prayed to the HC to issue a rule asking the authorities concerned with the government to explain why their failure to form an e-commerce regulatory authority should not be declared illegal.
The development comes as hundreds of thousands of customers of rogue e-commerce platforms like Evaly and Dhamaka Shopping are left in limbo over their orders for which they had made payment months ago.
The two platform's liabilities to customers are upwards of Tk 1,000 crore and they owe hundreds of crore to merchants, who had supplied goods on credit.
"They took away my money. Shall I move from door to door for my money? Where is my remedy? They will go to the police station and jail. But, from where I will get my money back?" Rahman asked.
Evaly's Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Rassel and its Chairperson Shamima Nasrin were arrested on Thursday, while Dhamaka's Managing Director Jashim Uddin Chishty has left the country.
Founded on December 16, 2018, Evaly based its business model on deep discounts on products that are funded by taking advance payments from customers with the promise of a deferred delivery.
For many, the deferred delivery never happened, with the chorus of customer complaints becoming deafening as far back as August last year.
And yet, in November last year came Dhamaka Shopping with the same business model as Evaly.
Dhamaka Shopping's customers and merchants are now in the same boat, while its top brass is alleged to have laundered about Tk 117 crore abroad, according to an investigation of the Criminal Investigation Department of police.
There is only Tk 30 lakh in the bank accounts of Evaly, according to the Rapid Action Battalion, which arrested the duo from their residence in the capital's Mohammadpur.
"Why is my house left unprotected? My house means my country -- Bangladesh. The countrymen are supposed to sleep in peace by closing their doors at night. But, why is the money of the countrymen being looted and laundered abroad? Who is responsible for stopping it? We want to see and examine it," the HC bench said.
In response, Deputy Attorney General Noor Us Sadik told the court that the government is taking action against those organisations, citing the arrest of Rassel and Nasrin as well as that of Ragib Hasan, the chairman of Ehsan Group, and three of his brothers as a case in point.
Hasan and his brothers have allegedly embezzled about Tk 17,000 crore from thousands of small investors.
The HC may hold a hearing on Bandhon's petition next week, he told The Daily Star.
Meanwhile, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin told reporters that the functions of e-commerce platforms need to be brought within the law so that they deposit security money with the Bangladesh Bank for their licence.
A provision needs to be incorporated in the law so that if any customer becomes a victim of fraudulence by any e-commerce company, he or she can get compensation from the security money and can lodge cases for redress, he said.
HEARING ON SEP 27 ON INFORMAL MONEYLENDING WRIT
Meanwhile, at the hearing yesterday, the HC bench fixed September 27 for delivering its order on the petition that sought its directive on the government to ban informal moneylending business across the country.
Supreme Court lawyer Syed Sayedul Haque Suman on September 7 submitted the petition as public interest litigation to the HC.
He also challenged the failure and inaction of the respondents to prevent informal moneylenders from lending money at excessive interest rates.
In the writ petition, he mentioned the secretaries concerned of the ministries of finance, home, law and social welfare, the Bangladesh Bank governor, the inspector general of police and deputy commissioners and superintendents of police of all 64 districts of the country as respondents.
The petitioner sought a directive from the HC on the respondents to identify all the usurious moneylenders across the country.
In the petition, he also requested the HC to issue a rule asking the respondents to show causes as to why the failure and inaction of the respondents to prevent informal moneylenders from lending money in the excessive interest rate should not be declared illegal.
Citing the petition, Suman told The Daily Star that high-interest informal moneylending businesses are going on at every village across the country in the name of co-operatives.
Many people also individually running such businesses even though they have no registration.
They provide loans on a high interest rate and collect weekly and monthly instalments, he said, adding that poor people are being hostage to the moneylenders and are becoming destitute.
A borrower reportedly has to give Tk 500 to Tk 1,000 as interest every week for a loan of Tk 10,000 and a moneylender collects Tk 2,000 to 2,500 per month against a loan of Tk 10,000, Suman said.
"Such moneylending business is running illegally before the local administrations in many places -- they need to be banned."