Caught in the ‘easy money’ scam
The lure of earning easy money is often too much for a common person to resist. This is where ponzi schemes like Metaverse Foreign Exchange Group (MTFE) come in.
Like any fraudulent company, they promised high returns to potential investors and offered unusually high returns on their investments in a short span of time.
They then disappeared into thin air, leaving lakhs of investors high and dry.
Evading law enforcers and relevant authorities, this fraudulent company also operated freely in Rajshahi just like other parts of the country, for four months, until the end of July, deceiving many unsuspecting individuals in the meantime.
The local representatives of the Dubai based organisation went underground after a case was filed against the company on July 23.
On the same day, the Cyber Tribunal of Rajshahi ordered Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP), Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to launch a joint investigation against these fraudsters.
However, several victims have alleged that the representatives of MTFE remained active all over Rajshahi till August 17, when the company app collapsed and any trace of the organisation suddenly disappeared from the web, along with hundreds and thousands of money invested by individuals willing to find a 'short cut' to success.
They alleged that despite knowing about this group, police only became active when the case was reported by several prominent media outlets, which resulted in the arrest of two suspects on Thursday- Debedranath Saha, 43, of Rajshahi and Latiful Bari, 42, of Naogaon.
When asked about such accusations, RMP Comissioner Biplob Bijoy Talukder told The Daily Star,"An investigation needs time." He didn't give any further details.
The Daily Star talked to a few victims of the MTFE scam at the city's Ahmedpur area who revealed, seeking anonymity, that they started investing in the company's app in April.
"We're ashamed," said one of the victims, adding that some of them managed to earn some profits before the app completely disappeared with all their investments.
However, they refused to disclose further information fearing legal repercussions and social stigma.
A lawyer named Md Zahurul Islam filed a public interest case on July 23 under the Digital Security Act with the Cyber Tribunal of Rajshahi,alleging that MTFE had defrauded many individuals in the division and had been operating without the approval of Bangladesh Bank.
Citing a newspaper report, the lawyer alleged that MTFE even opened an office at Laxmipur area of the city and Sabuj, a youth, ran it under the nose of local Rajpara police station.
The case named another youth, Rubel of Durgapur, who lured hundreds of people to invest in MTFE.
The lawyer alleged Rubel of earning commissions from the investments made through him.
"If one brings 100 investments, he qualifies to open an office and enjoys the post of CEO," read the case statement citing the newspaper report which published Rubel''s quote.
"In this way, hundreds of people are falling into traps of MTFE by investing money in the dream of becoming a millionaire overnight," the statement added.
"Besides MTFE, many people were cheated by investing in several other apps. Such apps allow people to invest until it disappears one day," Islam told this correspondent.
Take the case of Sabuj, Liton and Eklas of Rajshahi for example. They invested roughly Tk 20 lakh in the Ultima Wallet app and received payments ranging from Tk 10,000 to Tk 20,000 a few times before the app was shut down in June.
Sabuj Ali, a victim, filed a case with Boalia police station in this regard on June 26. So far, police have arrested six people in connection.
Before that, many people in the city were cheated through one Muvi app, the case description says.
MTFE introduces itself as a trading service provider for online investment in foreign exchange, commodities, stocks, stock indexes and other products.
According to the people who invest in the app, investors are enticed to contribute a set amount, divided into varying tiers. They receive a payout window of 3 days a week. To attract new participants, commissions are dangled as incentives.
One such customer is Comilla's Md Hasan, who is fearing losing about half of his investment.
About one and a half months ago, Hasan became acquainted with the app through a friend.
"It offered a $39 profit each week for investing $501. At the beginning of August, it suddenly stopped paying money. At that time, they told us that the app is under maintenance. But since Thursday, my balance in the app has turned to minus."
Like him, there are thousands of people in Comilla, Noakhali and Rajshahi who lost hundreds of crores, he said.