First News
Volume:7, Number:35
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Business & Finance 2

Money Leaving the Country

| Afsana Khan |

Nearly 97 percent of the money laundered out of Bangladesh go unrecorded, while the country loses huge amounts every year, despite the desperate need for local investment

Every year BDT450 billion on average is being siphoned out of Bangladesh. Cases are being filed against only BDT15 billion, which makes up about 3 percent of the overall laundered money. There is no record for the remaining BDT435 billion which is equal to nearly 97 percent of the total laundered money. A large portion of the money is deposited in Swiss banks, according to the reports of Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and Asia Pacific Group (APG).

According to GFI and APG, a total of BDT4.46 trillion was transferred from Bangladesh to overseas destinations between 2004 and 2013. As per that estimate, an average of BDT446.40 billion is laundered from the country annually. From 2009 to 2015, a total of 284 money-laundering cases were filed in the country, involving about BDT108 billion. Yunusur Rahman, secretary of the Banks and Financial Institutions Department under the Finance Ministry, said, “Bangladesh Bank, Anti-Corruption Commission, Criminal Investigation Department and some other agencies are working hard to curtail money laundering. As a result, Bangladesh’s acceptability is increasing in the global market.” However, he declined to comment on the APG reports. Finance adviser to former caretaker government Dr. Mirza Azizul Islam said that if this huge amount of money stayed in the country instead of being transferred abroad, it could have been invested in the productive sectors of the country. “Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people are earning money by unfair means and laundering it to foreign countries. The low-income people are watching it helplessly. Continuation of this situation will lead to discrimination and social disorder. National Board of Revenue, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence units should be more vigilant to prevent money laundering,” he said.

According to GFI and APG reports, BDT51.92 billion was transferred abroad in 2009. Only two money laundering cases were filed that year against BDT6.52 billion. There are no records of the remaining BDT45.40 billion. In 2010, 19 cases were filed against the laundering of BDT720 million, whereas BDT430 billion was transferred abroad that year. In the following year, 35 cases were filed against laundering of BDT1.57 billion, while BDT470 billion was transferred overseas that year. In 2012, 132 cases Money Leaving the Country Nearly 97 percent of the money laundered out of Bangladesh go unrecorded, while the country loses huge amounts every year, despite the desperate need for local investment were registered against the laundered amount of BDT900 million. Sixty-six money laundering cases were filed in 2013 against BDT90.20 billion, while BDT770 billion was laundered that year. There is no record of a huge amount of laundered money in any of those years. GFI and APG have not yet disclosed their reports about money laundering in the year of 2014 and 2015. However, as per AGP report, 20 cases were filed against money laundering of BDT7.38 billion in 2012 and 11 against BDT730 million in 2015.

Reportedly, human trafficking, forgery, gold and drug smuggling are the most common media of money trafficking. So far, charge sheets have been submitted for 43 cases out of the total 284 cases. As of today, verdicts have been issued in four cases, while 76 were settled after an investigation. An analysis of the money laundering cases shows that over 400 incidents of money laundering were investigated in the last 6 years. Of them, the investigation of 1 case was concluded in 2009, followed by 56 in 2010, 67 in 2011, 80 in 2012, 81 in 2013, 89 in 2014 and 26 in 2015.

The APG report also shed light on the issue of terrorist financing besides money laundering. Every year, GFI publishes reports including statistics on money laundering worldwide. The latest report was published in 2015, which covered the incident up until 2015. APG published its latest report on Bangladesh in November 2016. The report said that Bangladesh is being used as a transit route for human trafficking and gold smuggling. Besides, the border areas of the country have become a central zone for the illegal trading of food, wild animals, firearms, and cigarette. Regarding the country’s banking sector, the report said that banking channels are being used as the source of money laundering, which has been identified already. The risk of terrorist financing is quite high, the report concluded.

Dr. Zahid Hossain, chief economist of World Bank’s Dhaka office, said, “Despite having so much demand for investment, local money is being transferred abroad. Corruption and absence of an investment-friendly environment are responsible for this situation. People who earn their money illegally find it unsafe to deposit it in the local banks. Besides, the tendency to save one’s money in a secured place also plays a part in this situation.” Strict measures should be taken by the government to stop overinvoicing and under-invoicing to prevent money laundering, he added. “Institutional competency must be upgraded as well. Making amendments to existing money laundering laws is just as necessary. If an investment- friendly environment can be created, local money will be invested locally.”

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