Snare of Bigo Live runs deep
A 40-year-old reputed businessperson joined Bigo Live, a video streaming app, a year ago and spent around Tk 26 lakh on young women, who lured him through live streaming.
These women were recruited by Bigo's agents in Bangladesh.
Recently, after being defrauded by one of the Bigo users, he complained to the Criminal Investigation Department of police.
When the CID nabbed one of the agents, it found a transaction of Tk 23 crore, only through his mobile banking merchant account.
The CID then conducted raids in the capital's Karwan Bazar, Kataban, Chawkbazar and Mirpur areas on Saturday and arrested five people, including a Chinese national, who introduced himself as the country manager of Bigo Live in Bangladesh.
The arrestees are Jie Yao, 31, Mostafa Saif Reza, 26, Arif Hossain, 27, SM Nazmul Haque, 27, and Asmaul Husna, 28.
"We got some more names. Law enforcers have so far tracked down transactions of more than Tk 100 crore in banks and mobile financial service accounts of the arrestees and their accomplices. We suspect that the majority of the money earned through Bigo Live and Likee is siphoned from the country," Jamil Ahmed, deputy inspector general (cyber wing) of CID, told reporters at a press briefing yesterday.
A CID official, wishing not to be named, told The Daily Star that Jie Yao, who lives in Gulshan area, himself collected most of the money in cash from the hosting agents.
The official said that they first arrested Nazmul from his home in Kataban area. They found a transaction of Tk 23 crore made through his mobile banking accounts. On his mobile, the CID found a Whatsapp group, administered by Bigo Live officials in Bangladesh.
CID said Saif was the Bangladeshi admin of Bigo Live, Arif used to recruit young girls and have them join in the live streaming, and Nazmul is one of the top agents who sold "Bigo Live Diamonds", a virtual currency, to users. Asma served as the head of admins.
In his LinkedIn profile, Jie Yao introduced himself as the country manager of Bigo Live in Bangladesh. Saif and Asma also introduced themselves as Bigo employees.
Bigo Live is a live streaming platform and Likee is a short video-making and sharing app. Both the apps are owned by Singapore-based BIGO Technology, which was founded in 2014 by David Li and Jason Hu.
CID officials said that young Bangladeshis and expats are targeted by these agents. To gain more followers and subsequently, more cash, a lot of broadcasters get a little raunchy. The Bangladeshi agents recruit five to seven young girls to "go live and lure men" during live streaming.
To join the live streams, its users have to top up "Bigo Live Diamonds" from their Bangladesh based agents. These "diamonds" are digital currency that local agents buy from foreign admins through banks, MFS or hundi, they added.
The broadcaster can earn money after encashing the virtual gifts. If someone is a popular streamer, the followers send her virtual gifts. The streamers, in turn, can stock up these gifts, which can be transformed into "beans".
The more popular the streamer, the more beans they earn. These beans can be encashed for real money, which the app deposits in the streamers' accounts. The current "bean" exchange rate is 210 beans for US $1.
Besides, someone can work on Bigo Live as an official host or recruiter and earn a decent commission on top of the virtual currency.
During the drive, law enforcers seized eight mobile phones, four laptops, seven credit cards, six cheque books, and Tk 50,460 in cash.
The CID official said a case was filed against the arrestees and 50-60 unnamed others under the Digital Security Act and Pornography Act with Paltan Police Station. After investigation, another case may be filed under the Money Laundering Act.
Meanwhile in a statement yesterday, BIGO Technology, which has operations in 20 countries, including Bangladesh, said that they are conducting a thorough review on this case and will work with relevant law enforcement agencies in this regard.
They further said that they will cooperate closely with the law enforcement agencies and the government for upholding regional and national laws and values.