Online Gambling: Crores siphoned out of country
An international gambling racket has been siphoning off crores of taka every day from the country and investing in cryptocurrencies, according to law enforcers.
The revelation came to the fore after the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Unit of police arrested a man named Md Mohiuddin Parvez, 27, from his office in the capital's Badda area on June 14.
Six laptops and five mobile phones were seized from him.
Parvez, a graduate of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, maintained the four agent accounts with online gambling sites for the last seven months, earning up to Tk 1.5 lakh a day, said Tohidul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of CTTC.
In four agent accounts, Parvez used to make transactions of up to Tk 50 lakh a day. On June 14, right before he got busted, Parvez deposited about Tk 82 lakh to different bank accounts in the country, according to Tohidul.
Parvez made a confessional statement before a Dhaka court yesterday after being on remand for three days.
"We have the details of over a dozen people with agent accounts similar to Parvez's. They are on our watch. Through these 2,300 gambling agent accounts, at least Tk 50 crore could be siphoned from the country in a single day," Tohidul said.
Officers have identified two individuals from Russia and Cyprus as the ringleaders.
"We would seek support from the Interpol to track them down," he added.
Gamblers in the country mostly spend the money on online casinos, betting on international sports like football or cricket, and games played on computers and other devices.
1xbet.com, melbet.com and linebet.com are popular gambling sites in Bangladesh. The sites are maintained from Russia.
The money won by the gamblers also reach their hands through illegal channels, officers said.
Besides, most of the money spent by the gamblers eventually end up at the bank accounts belonging on papers to apparel companies.
Such companies launder the money out of the country and hoodwink the law enforcers by lying on the documents related to the import of raw materials, according to the investigators.
Parvez told investigators that he first had communications with someone named Michel Victor, to whom he had requested for an agent account on the online gambling site 1xbet.com.
Victor then asked Parvez for his personal details. Once he provided the information, someone named Tom contacted him and asked him to deposit $5,000 to the bank accounts of a Bangladeshi fashion house and an IT firm, investigators said.
After Parvez deposited the money, he had his agent account opened on the site, Tohidul said.
The money was later sent back to the agent in the form of cryptocurrency, which is illegal in Bangladesh.
"We have several local fashion houses and IT firms on our list. We are investigating their link with the gambling nexus."
Parvez told investigators that agents like him mainly receive money from local gamblers via the mobile financial services platform.
People like Parvez maintain several agent accounts with the MFS. Once a gambler deposits money through MFS, the agent makes sure that the money is laundered out of the country, it reaches the hand of the site operators.
The currency used by the sites are cryptocurrencies, the investigators said.
"We identified a couple of bKash agent accounts in the capital that are recipients of the money sent by the online gamblers. We learnt that the bKash accounts were opened using fake details and trade licences," said a high official of the CTTC unit, requesting anonymity.
Local agents like Parvez also use recognised online payment systems.
After receiving the money, the local gambling agents refill the gambler's account through online payment systems like Perfect Money, Skrill, PayPal and Net Hiller.
Once the account is refilled, the gambler can spend on the sites.
Perfect Money is popular now, said an official, adding that the gambling agents are now charging Tk 90 against one unit of Perfect Money.
Contacted, Abu Hena Md Razi Hasan, chief of Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), said: "We are also receiving information about the use of online payment systems for gambling. We are sharing the information with the law enforcers."
Asked how people could open bKash agent accounts using false information, Shamsuddin Haider Dalim, head of corporate communication at bKash, said: "We always investigate if we receive any complaint regarding the use of agent accounts for criminal activities, and we take actions like suspending the account. We have two dedicated teams closely working with law enforcers and BFIU."
Besides, the agent accounts go through routine scrutiny, he added.