Fast bucks, dangerous | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 17, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 17, 2011

Fast bucks, dangerous

Over 3 lakh innocent lured into investment with promise for hefty returns by unipay2u; central bank raises swindling alert

If you open an account with $65 (Tk 4,500), you will be allowed to purchase up to 75 grams of gold worth Tk 157,000. Once you deposit the money, the purchase is done.
The benefit is “guaranteed” -- 10 percent a month -- and will double in just 10 months. You are entitled to more: if you can convince others to open accounts, 10 percent of their deposited money will go into your wallet.
Four packages called trading accounts are on offer. They range between $65, $120, $260 and $520 and you will get an investment opportunity in gold.
This is how unipay2u Bangladesh, a so-called multilevel marketing company, has been luring people and amassing their hard-earned money from across the country. It claims the investment is safer, easier and better value.
The gold you buy is your personal tangible property, stored “economically” in the world's safest places in London, New York or Zurich.
Wishing anonymity, a senior company official said unipay2u started business here in November 2009 and now has at least 300,000 members.
The official said they give membership through authorised agents.
The company has earned over Tk 136 crore from account opening fees ($65 per account) paid by 300,000 members, who have invested Tk 630 crore with a minimum of Tk 21,000 each.
Unipay2u is not the first to make such offers in Bangladesh. Neway, SAP, Doorway, FIC, A-1 System, Jubok and GGN had earlier come to the market and cheated thousands of people. Most of them have folded up.
“They are frauds. They earn by cheating people,” said schoolteacher Faruque Hossain, who became a member of GGN with a deposit of Tk 15,000 a decade ago.
“I got Tk 3,000 by making a few others members of the company but they did not get any return,” he said.
Allegations have already been raised against unipay2u. The company shut down its office in Cox's Bazar in October 2010 after allegedly taking crores of taka from locals. Police arrested two unipay2u employees -- Ibrahim and Shaibal Barua.
The government this time seems serious about dealing with these fraudulent practices.
The central bank in a statement yesterday cautioned people not to do any business with any multilevel marketing company.
A company has been offering investment in gold outside Bangladesh, but transfer of money or investment outside the country is unlawful without the bank's permission, it said.
If any account of these companies gets frozen, they start the same business with a new name, said the central bank.
The government yesterday also asked people not to fall for the publicity of unipay2u.
“It has already come to the government's notice. Legal action is being taken against them,” said the Press Information Department in a statement.
Asking not to be named, a government official said the Prime Minister's Office has also taken the issue seriously.
In May last year, Bangladesh Bank froze accounts of unipay2u for illegal banking.

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