Our website and server is under the control of EOW Mumbai as a part of the ongoing investigation, we are unable to launch any new information on that website in-order to keep you all updated.

-Speak Asia Online, 12th September, Official Speak Asia Blogspot blog.

Ever since Speak Asia’s website became dysfunctional back in August, the company has steadfastly maintained that it is under the full control of the EOW. Speak Asia claim that the EOW seized their server and as a result stopped the company from sending out surveys and members from logging into the site.

Mysteriously, 48 hours or so ago Speak Asia’s members found that they were now able to login to the Speak Asia website and access their accounts. In the two days since then, neither Speak Asia or the EOW have put out an official explanation for this turn of events.

Until today.

Even before Speak Asia’s website lost part of its functionality it was well publicised that the ‘speakasiaonline.com’ domain was hosted in the US with GoDaddy, and that the website itself was being hosted in Singapore with the company Usonyx.

The question has always loomed as to how the EOW had any jurisdiction in either of these countries. With no particular reason to lie about who controlled their surveys however, and a lack of denial by the EOW both critics and members of Speak Asia had no reason not to take them at their word.

I’ve long since suspected that perhaps the Singapore based server connected to a separate database in India, but even that theory seems impossible given the latest announcements by the EOW.

Responding to Speak Asia members who had approached the EOW about the recent changes to the website, the EOW reaffirmed that ‘Speak Asia’s site is registered outside India and its server is located in Singapore‘.

Sure, that we already knew but the bombshell dropped by the EOW today was the announcement that ‘(Speak Asia) Server is in Singapore and never officially controlled by EOW. So no question of handing back (the server)‘.

Coincidentally I myself pondered this very point just earlier today,

Although admittedly I am rather confused as to what the EOW seized, seeing as the domain is hosted in the US via GoDaddy and Speak Asia are using Usonyx hosting in Singapore.

It makes absolutely no sense to suggest that the EOW seized Speak Asia’s server seeing as they’d have to produce a court order to Usonyx in Singapore demanding custody of the server.

Furthermore if the EOW took the server, the entire Speak Asia website would disappear overnight.

So who exactly had disabled the login functionality of panelists back in August and stopped the surveys from going out?

Even as late as this evening, Speak Asia maintain that it is the EOW who have control of their server. In his latest press release, All India Speak Asia Panelist Association (AISPA) Secretary Ashok Bahirwani categorically stated that

What I want to bring to the attention of all the Speakasians is that the website is still in the possession of the EOW.

Bahirwani obviously wouldn’t make such a statement without some sort of confirmation from Speak Asia’s management, so we can assume this is still the official line of the company.

Speak Asia claim the EOW still have control of their website hosted in Singapore, and the EOW claim they never seized anything.

I went ahead and contacted Singapore hosting company Usonyx earlier today inquiring as to who was in control of the Speak Asia website. This was there reply,

Unfortunately we could not release any client information kindly contact Speak Asia directly. Thank you for your understanding.

Note that they didn’t direct me to the EOW, but to Speak Asia directly. Respecting the need for client privacy, I sent a reply asking Usonyx if they could confirm whether or not the EOW had seized any of their servers, but as of yet, they never replied (the second email was sent nearly 12 hours ago now, first reply was received within an hour).

Bahirwani himself notes that

why and how the EOW has allowed the website to go live and made it available to the public view, is a question for which I have no answers.

I have to say I agree, and the reason is that it makes no sense that the EOW could just go ahead and seize web sites hosted internationally. They have no jurisdiction in Singapore to begin with – and most certainly any court action against Usonyx would have been highly publicised.

I do have to note that I find it rather strange that to date the EOW hasn’t made any public announcements regarding the seizing of the server till now. Especially seeing as Speak Asia have been accusing them of seizing the server for nearly six months now.

This curiosity aside, all of this of course brings us back to Speak Asia… but then the larger question loom as to why they themselves would shut down panelists being able to login to the website and the sending out of surveys?

If we look at the timing of the surveys being stopped and panelists not being able to login, it coincides perfectly with the launch of the criminal investigations into Speak Asia, and now functionality has been restored just days before the EOW and CID are set to go head to head with Speak Asia in the Supreme Court.

No doubt by now the criminal investigations of these two agencies have been finalised and charge sheets are being filed. So who stands to benefit from suppressing Speak Asia members from logging in and the suspension of survey operations?

Speak Asia of course.

The EOW themselves have nothing to gain from disabling the Speak Asia website. If anything they’d make it harder for themselves to track the inner workings of the company as they’d have to rely solely on offline sources what with the website being effectively rendered statically useless and being hosted overseas, out of their reach.

Mind you, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen this tactic from Speak Asia either. Both the company’s CEO’s remain in hiding overseas and COO Tarak Bajpai immediately disappeared upon being discharged from hospital.

Would keeping panelists membership details suppressed and the inner workings of their online activities really be much of a stretch for the company to undertake?

Two things need to be discussed here,

  • why haven’t the EOW said anything about this matter since August?
  • why are Speak Asia claiming the EOW seized their website when it has infact remained online all this time and under Speak Asia’s control (as confirmed by Usonyx)?
  • why have panelists been allowed to login just now, a mere five days away (three if you count the weekend) from the most important court appearance by Speak Asia yet, at a time when most likely any criminal investigations against the company have either been completed, or are on hold in preparation for the court hearing?

If we weigh the cost/benefit analysis between Speak Asia and the EOW, it’s easily Speak Asia who stands to gain more via the way of privacy in hiding membership account details overseas and halting surveys (the EOW would easily be able to follow the paper trail and expose where these surveys were being generated from).

The EOW don’t have any jurisdiction in Singapore to begin with, so apart from the illogical assertion they have seized and retain control over Speak Asia’s website, there’s no real benefit to them stopping surveys and member logins, or allowing members to access their accounts mere days before a court appearance.

Speak Asia’s members will no doubt claim that the EOW is lying through their teeth and that this latest turn of events somehow proves they have nothing to show in court, despite the jurisdiction issue. If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture here however, it’s clear that there’s a continuous pattern involved in practically every development of Speak Asia’s regulatory troubles since they began in May.

If we start with their CEO’s Manoj Kumar and Harendar Kaur going into hiding, the company sending other officials off to hospitals after they were arrested, the website being disabled and survey production halted upon the announcement of criminal investigations into the company and Speak Asia lying to the Supreme court about its use of a “product based” business model, it’s clear that every step of the way there’s either a misrepresentation of facts, or that the company is trying its hardest to suppress information and keep it out of reach of the authorities.

This latest chapter with the website would evidently appear to be  just yet another chapter in this long line of now predictable activity from Speak Asia.

I for one would like to give them the benefit of the doubt in this instance, as I do find the lack of an EOW response addressing this issue now cause for concern, but logically you simply can’t go past the jurisdiction issue.

Simply put, the EOW has no jurisdiction in Singapore so how could they seize anything in the first place?


Update 10th November, 2011 – Speak Asia have published a reply to this matter on their official Blogspot blog;

We would like to state that the website access, passwords and database was taken over by the Economic Offenses Wing of the Mumbai Police.

This was obtained from the technical team of the company that used to maintain the website. This action was executed immediately after the arrests of the company’s COO and others.

Since then SAOL has no access to the website speakasiaonline.com.

The motive behind partially restoring the access to the website speakasiaonline.com is at the moment not available to us as we have had no official communication from EOW Mumbai Police on this subject.

Speak Asia go on to accuse Money Life of printing a false report, which is interesting seeing as they themselves once again are directly quoting the EOW.

The EOW haven’t clarified whether or not they have the login details of Speak Asia’s server which could very well be the case. The EOW have only thus far denied having sezied the server, which is obviously a reference to having physically seized it – which is impossible seeing as it’s in Singapore.

This now brings us back to the EOW, and why they’ve then decided to bring the memberbase database back up.

I wonder what’s going on over at EOW Mumbai?