Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police arrested five alleged members of a gang, including a foreign national, for smuggling hundreds of crores using livestreaming apps Bigo and Likee.
Mobile phones, laptops, private cars, credit cards and cheque books of various banks, along with undisclosed amounts of cash, were recovered from their possession.
The arrested Bangladeshi nationals were identified as Mostafa Saif Reza (26), Md Arif Hossain (27), SM Nazmul Haque (27), and Asma ul Husna Sejuti (28). The CID did not reveal the identity of the foreign national, for 'purpose of investigation'.
Briefing reporters at the CID's head office in the capital's Malibagh on Sunday, head of Cyber police DIG Jamil Ahmed said the people in ultimate control of organised criminal rings using apps like Bigo and Likee, are still out of reach. "But we are collecting all important information about them," he added.
The arrested foreign national is "directly involved" with Bigo and Likee apps, while Mostafa Saif Reza is Bigo and Likee's Bangladeshi admin, he added.
Bigo Live and Likee are live video streaming apps owned by JOYY Inc, a Chinese company that is listed on New York's NASDAQ, the capital market for tech companies.
DIG Jamil Ahmed said that the arrested Arif Hossain used to associate different girls with Bigo Live by giving jobs on a monthly salary. SM Nazmul Haque is one of the leading Bangladeshi agents for selling virtual currency diamonds, while Asma ul Husna Sejuti is the chief admin of Bigo Live. Admins get a salary of Tk 1 lakh per month.
Jamil said that information about criminal activity through these apps was recently published through various newspapers and magazines and social media. In this context, the issue of smuggling huge amounts of money abroad through live streaming apps Bigo Live and Likee came to the notice of CID's cyber unit. After that, they started investigating.
The Cyber police chief said during the investigation, it was revealed that many of the country's youngsters and expatriate Bangladeshis stream videos on Bigo Live and Likee. The Bigo Live app has two types of ID: one is Broadcaster ID and the other is Supporter ID or Sender ID. Adolescents use Broadcaster ID to stream live video. This is used to spread various obscenities behind the veil of so-called entertainment.
Those who streamed videos with a supporter ID or sender ID were gifted a 'digital coin-like diamond'. Later, the diamond was used to make huge amounts of money illegally.
He also said that during interrogation, the arrestees have disclosed the names of several more people associated with them and more than Tk 100 crore worth of transactions have been found in the accounts of their various banks and mobile banking services in the last one year.
Meanwhile, BIGO Technology (BIGO) in a statement Sunday evening said that the company has a zero-tolerance policy against any criminal activity by any person or individual, regardless of whether or not the person is involved with any of the company’s local agency partners.
“We have developed rigorous policies and processes, combined with our industry-leading technology to combat any criminal behavior. At the same time, we do not take a side with or endorse any isolated action of any person or organization who may or would have an intention of involving BIGO’s name in any criminal activity,“ it said.
The Singapore-based company said they are conducting a thorough review of the case and will work with relevant law enforcement agencies in whatever way they can.
BIGO has operations in more than 20 countries around the world, one of which is Bangladesh. Its total user base is upwards of 400 million, spread across 150 countries.