Another organization, MTFE, has joined the long list of groups in Bangladesh running MLM or pyramid scams to take people’s money. Metaverse Foreign Exchange Group Inc., or MTFE, made off with around USD 1 billion or BDT 11 thousand crore. Many people in Bangladesh are wondering how to become rich without much work or investment. This led to organizations like Destiny, Jubok, Dolancer, and Ehsan Group successfully scamming millions of Bangladeshis out of thousands of crores of rupees at different times. Most of these companies use the MLM model to lure people into quick wealth schemes. Despite a lot of discussion and media coverage about these scams disguised as Multilevel Marketing or Network Marketing, people have lost their money by investing in them due to their desire for easy riches. Today we will explore, how MTFE managed to escape with so much of people’s money?
MTFE conducted this scam, targeting both the general population of Bangladesh and Bangladeshi expatriates worldwide. According to media reports, cyber analysts estimate that approximately 90 percent of the $1 billion involved in this scam came from Bangladeshi investors. This fraudulent scheme extended its reach beyond Bangladesh, affecting countries like India in South Asia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, as well as the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Nigeria in Africa, and Kenya, impacting approximately 70 million people globally. But how did so many individuals become ensnared in this deception?
In Bangladesh, the MTFE app gained traction in 2021. The trading platform, supposedly established in Ontario, Canada, in 2016, claimed to be affiliated with the term “Metaverse.” However, the Ontario Securities Commission reported having no record of any company registered under the name “MTFE” for trading and securities in their jurisdiction. Moreover, the puzzling aspect was how a company named “Metaverse” had been founded in 2016 when the term itself gained prominence in 2021. Further scrutiny revealed that MTFE’s domain had been registered under a Bangladeshi individual’s name in 2021.
Meanwhile, a report from Manabzamin identified a young man named “Masood Al Islam” from Comilla, based in Dubai, as the perpetrator behind the MTFE scam’s spread from Dubai to Bangladesh. This scam gradually proliferated from Comilla to other parts of the country, with approximately 4.2 million people falling into the trap, investing small amounts of money in search of higher profits.
MTFE claimed to be the top platform for trading various commodities, including forex, gold, US stock market-listed company stocks, and cryptocurrencies. To appear credible, the platform allowed trading from 7 pm to 1 am Bangladesh time, five days a week, matching the New York Stock Exchange hours. However, trading commodities or cryptocurrencies had no fixed time limits. The platform offered three types of trading options: Manual Trading, VIP Signals, and AI Smart Transactions. But the company promoted VIP Signals and AI Trading more heavily.
With VIP Signals, users who deposited $50 were added to a WhatsApp or Telegram group, where they received instructions on buying and selling stocks before trading hours, mainly from the CEOs. AI Smart Transaction, on the other hand, automated trading for users, requiring no prior trading knowledge. Many users utilized both these methods. Essentially, the platform operated like a preset simulation, where users followed instructions and received predetermined profits. However, failure to follow instructions correctly resulted in losses, which built trust among users.
In reality, though, it was all just a video game. Using AI for trading is strictly prohibited internationally. Additionally, the company sponsors Jaffna Kings, a team in Sri Lanka’s Lanka Premier League (LPL) 2023, to bolster user confidence.
But how did MTFE spread so quickly in Bangladesh? Essentially, MTFE ran an MLM or Pyramid Scam that started with their regional team leaders. According to various media sources, there are numerous team leaders operating at the grassroots level to oversee MTFE in Bangladesh, and they present themselves as the company’s CEOs. These so-called CEOs would encourage young people in the country to invest $26 or BDT 2600 in the app, promising earnings of 50 cents or about 40-45 BDT per day without any effort required.
Once regular folks were convinced by the app’s enticing demonstration, they were tempted to invest $500 or BDT 60,000, aiming to earn BDT 22,000 at the end of the month. If they invested $930 or BDT 1,10,000, they were promised BDT 45,000 per month. In other words, users were promised over a 40 percent profit on their investment every month, which is simply unrealistic. It’s incredibly challenging for a legitimate business to achieve a 30-40 percent profit per year. Therefore, expecting a trading app to generate profits of 40-50 percent per month or over 500 percent per year is nothing short of a fairy tale.
Despite this, the people of the country, driven by greed, invested in this app, selling cows, mortgaging land, and even selling jewelry to make a small investment. Furthermore, if someone invested $3,500 and brought in 15 others through referrals who collectively invested $9,000, the initial investor would be promised a monthly reward of BDT 4 lakhs. Those who managed to bring in at least 100 people were promoted to the role of CEO. These CEOs were also instructed to obtain a separate trade license in their own name and establish an office. There are at least more than 400 CEOs in Bangladesh, who have 250 offices in Dhaka alone.
It’s worth noting that while an organization can have multiple founders, co-founders, directors, vice presidents, managers, and so on, there can only be one CEO, or Chief Executive Officer. Having so many CEOs within this organization should have raised a major red flag, but people overlooked it due to their greed or lack of awareness.
Each of these CEOs has separate Telegram and WhatsApp groups where members receive updates about the latest features and trading signals from MTFE. Additionally, these CEOs formed a team and regularly organized seminars in various districts across the country, including Dhaka, to attract more app users. Victims of the MTFE scam in the media revealed that the app primarily targeted SSC and HSC level students in Bangladesh. Young individuals from different regions of the country began promoting the app through diverse content on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. They formed various groups to promote MTFE both online and offline. Those already using the app played a crucial role in bringing hundreds of people to these seminars. During these seminars, CEOs motivated ordinary people with inspirational speeches, promising them the opportunity to earn crores of rupees from the comfort of their homes with a small investment.
It’s important to note that many individuals in rural areas lacked the proficiency to operate such an app. As a result, the masterminds behind this fraudulent scheme, acting as team leaders, would open accounts for newcomers through their referrals in exchange for a commission. This approach allowed the app to gain widespread popularity, reaching people of all educational backgrounds, from teenagers to the elderly in villages. Hundreds of people in Bangladesh invested in MTFE, often pledging their jewelry and valuable possessions in pursuit of promised incredible profits. According to various media sources in the country, as well as reports from the Middle East and global media, MTFE abruptly ceased all its operations after embezzling approximately BDT 11 thousand crores or USD 1 billion from investors
Despite being a significant scam, victims are unable to take action against this organization or its team leaders. This is because all investments in MTFE are made through cryptocurrency exchange platforms like Binance. To invest in the app, one had to open a Binance account and link it to the MTFE account. Cryptocurrency was then transferred to the Binance account using MFS. Binance is the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange and trading platform, where all financial transactions are untraceable.
After adding cryptocurrency to the Binance account, it had to be linked to the MTFE account, and the funds were transferred. The CEOs would then encourage users to invest more by showcasing profit figures through the app’s simulations. Additionally, the platform allowed users to withdraw funds to maintain customer trust. However, since any form of cryptocurrency transaction is prohibited in Bangladesh, users couldn’t withdraw directly. Essentially, these activities were carried out through money laundering or “hundi” with the collaboration of gang leaders and some MFS agents.
Because users had to use cryptocurrencies like Binance in this entire process, the country’s laws would consider these users themselves as participants in money laundering. In other words, MTFE has executed a flawless “Get Rich Quick” scam where victims can’t even file complaints with law enforcement agencies, and there’s no concrete blueprint for this scam, thanks to the use of crypto exchanges like Binance and the absence of users’ transaction data and evidence with MTFE.
tarting on August 7, 2023, the platform halted all withdrawals, citing a sudden system upgrade. Even before this date, the platform had already rejected numerous withdrawal requests. During this time, various MTFE CEOs appeared live on their groups and pages, reassuring the general public that the issues arose from technical glitches during the upgrade, and customers had nothing to worry about.
However, after 10 days, on the 17th, around 8 pm, the company activated the AI feature without user consent and began displaying negative balances in the virtual accounts of many app users after trading hours ended. This action caused significant alarm among users.
According to the platform, these negative balances resulted from substantial losses incurred through automatic trading carried out by users via the AI feature the previous day. Starting on the 19th, users began receiving notifications on the app, warning that if they did not settle their negative balances within 24 hours, they would lose their trading privileges, and the company would pursue legal action against them.
In this challenging situation, the app’s ordinary users were repeatedly reassured by self-proclaimed CEOs. These CEOs were essentially attempting to deflect attention and evade responsibility. According to media reports, the MTFE CEO left for Umrah after causing losses estimated at least 11 thousand crores to the people of Bangladesh by suspending all app activities.
Meanwhile, due to the use of cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance, regular individuals have faced difficulties taking direct action against those connected to this app.