Bangladesh: Prominent Indian Teen Patti app operator Moonfrog Labs caught selling poker chips

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One of the biggest Teen Patti app operators in India, Moonfrog Asia Pte Ltd, has been caught selling virtual poker chips online in Bangladesh and transferring Taka 168 crore out of the country. The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit said that the money was transferred to their Indian account.

The company had procured the permit from the government to sell video games in the country but was selling virtual poker chips, as stated in their official documents. According to the members of CTTC selling poker chips is an illegal activity and a form of gambling, thus prohibited in the country according to the Public Gambling Act, 1967.

The CTTC filed a case at Shahjahanpur Police Station on October 20. The accused include 10 Bangladeshis and 4-5 unidentified individuals who are charged for “operating online gambling”. All of them were conducting financial transactions through Mobile Financing Services (MFS), according to the FIR.

In a statement to The Daily Star, Tohidul Islam, deputy commissioner of CTTC unit said, “We have already arrested a suspect, Md Benzir Hossain, who is operating gambling with nine other absconding people through gaming sites, including Teen Patti Gold.”

A case has been lodged under Sections 30 and 35 of the Digital Security Act which concern with punishment for e-transaction without legal authority and for abetting an offence.

According to the investigators, the CEO of Ulka Games Limited, Zamilur Rashid came in contact with Moonfrog Asia and was appointed as director of the Indian company in Bangladesh as a one percent shareholder.

The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) had approved a project from Ulka Games Limited called ‘Teen Patti Gold’ on December 29, 2019 under ‘retail sale of video games’. The company with Tanay Biraj Mohan Tayal of India as promoter then invested a total of Taka 1.25 crore in Tejgaon Industrial Area, Dhaka.

To sell poker chips, Ulka Games appointed 14 agents in different districts of Bangladesh. These agents also appointed sub-agents. In order to play the game, the players needed to have one crore chips which were sold for Taka 10 by the agents. Subsequently, the sub-agents used to sell it to game users for Taka 11-12.

An arrested sub-agent said that he used to make transactions of around Taka 15000-20000 daily. Incidentally, the players also have the ability to transfer the chips to another user.

ADC Tohid said, “We are now checking how many people are playing online games in Bangladesh and whether any transaction has taken place through an unauthorized channel, like hundi.”

A senior officer at BIDA said they did not find anything about online gambling activity before they registered them. Shah Mohammad Mahboob, who is now director general-3 (International Investment Promotion) of BIDA, has refused to comment on the matter.

The Daily Star also contacted Zamilur Rashid, director of Teen Patti Gold in Bangladesh, who claimed they were not involved in any gambling, saying, “You can call it gambling when the company gives payouts in exchange for investment. But in the game, we only sell chips and never buy it back or give profit to users.”

Upon asking about players being able to transfer the chips to different accounts Zamilur said that it’s a loophole and the company is also losing money as users are now buying from other users. He also added, “We have no ill intention and we only want to expand the game industry in the country.”