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Kuwaiti Ecommerce Startup Boutiqaat Under Investigation for Money Laundering

The ban accounts of the startup and its founder have been frozen, as investigations get underway.

Kuwait-based ecommerce platform, Boutiqaat, has been put under investigation amidst a money laundering scandal involving 10 social media influencers.

Earlier this week, Kuwaiti media ran stories on the influencers in question - all of whom have collaborated with Boutiqaat - revealing that their assets had been seized and that they had been issued with a travel ban. Today, Boutiqaat has found itself embroiled in the controversy, with reports suggesting that the alleged scheme was facilitated through the platform. Subsequently, the bank accounts of the startup and its founder, Abdulwahab Al Essa, have also been frozen.

As a platform, Boutiqaat allows social media influencers to essentially create virtual stores, through which followers can purchase a selection of curated products. Details are still unclear and management at Boutiqaat have yet to publicly comment on the matter, though sales are believed to have plummeted since the story emerged.

It’s a remarkable turn for a startup that boasts some 25,000 products from over 700 global beauty brands, including the likes of Anastasia, Benefit, Make Up For Ever and Gigi Hadid. Since launching 2015, it has recruited over 200 social media influencers and celebrities, essentially building the core of its business model on these kinds of partnerships. In 2019, the startup was valued at $500 million, placing it among the likes of Amazon's Souq.com as the one of the highest-valued ecommerce platforms in the region.

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