Ibrahim Khalil Jewel: The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was the sole agency responsible for the investigation of all crimes related to money siphoning under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2012. In 2015, the law was amended, and out of the 27 crimes, only money siphoning arising out of bribery and corruption was brought under the jurisdiction of the ACC, and six agencies of the government were given the responsibility to enquire and investigate the rest.
The six agencies are – Police Intelligence Department (criminal investigation department-CID), National Board of Revenue (NBR), Bangladesh Customs, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC), Directorate of Environment and Directorate of Narcotics Control.
As a result, all other money laundering related offenses arising from domestic and foreign money siphoning, forgery and fraud offenses fall outside the jurisdiction of the ACC.
According to reports published in various times, 80 percent of money laundering is done under the guise of import and export. However, ACC cannot investigate allegations of money laundering in the guise of import-export under the existing Money Laundering Act. Apart from this, if the crime related to money laundering is committed at the private level, the power of investigation is also outside the jurisdiction of the ACC. As a result, ACC is not able to investigate the various crimes related to money laundering.
A report published by the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) also found evidence of trade-related laundering. According to the report of the organization, the amount of money laundering from Bangladesh under the guise of international trade is increasing every year. From 2009 to 2015,Tk 4 lakh 36 thousand crore was smuggled out of Bangladesh. According to this, an average ofTk 73,000 crore has been smuggled every year. In 2015 alone, more than 01 lakh crore taka was smuggled. At that time 18 percent of foreign trade was fake.
However, as always, the ACC has to take the most responsibility when there are complaints related to money laundering. Even recently, the country’s high court has commented that ‘ACC is sleeping’ on money laundering and repatriation of laundered money from Bangladesh.
For this reason, the organization has increased efforts to amend laws and regulations to regain the previous power to investigate all crimes related to money laundering. The agency wants to implement the High Court judgment on ACC’s powers to enquire and investigate any scheduled offense under the Money Laundering Act as soon as possible.
As a part of this, the ACC Chairman gave a strong speech on this issue in the 26th meeting of the National Coordination Committee to Prevent Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing on August 30 last.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal presided over the meeting held on the online Zoom platform. In the meeting, ACC Chairman Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah mentioned that the ACC has jurisdiction to investigate all money laundering crimes – to implement the recent judgment of the High Court in revising the Anti-Money Laundering Rules (with schedule).
In this regard, a senior official of the government related to the meeting told on condition of anonymity that the president of the National Coordination Committee and Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal directed the Financial Institutions Department to present a proposal in the next meeting. Final decision can be taken after discussion on that proposal.
Apart from this, the meeting also urged to ensure the implementation of various important decisions taken in the meeting of the National Coordination Committee to speed up the ongoing activities to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism.
In this regard, Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah said, ACC is responsible for enquiring and investigation of money laundering crimes related to ‘bribery and corruption’ in the Schedule of Prevention of Money Laundering Regulations 2019 issued under Prevention of Money Laundering Act-2012. However, a recent High Court case ruled that the ACC will investigate all money laundering offences. But as the ACC can only investigate the crime of bribery and corruption in the law and schedule, the agency is facing problems in implementing the said judgment.
ACC Commissioner (Research)MozammelHaque Khangave almost the same information. He said, “According to the observation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the ACC can search and investigate any crime related to money laundering under the ACC Act.”
“After reviewing the overall issues, the Anti-Corruption Commission decided to send a letter to the Cabinet Department for taking initiatives to amend the Prevention of Money Laundering Act-2012 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Rules-2019.I know that the Cabinet Department has forwarded the matter to the Financial Institutions Department requesting necessary action,” he informed.
“The Prevention of Money Laundering Act mentions 27 offences. ACC could investigate only one of these offences. In 2017, there are cases and observations of the High Court in this regard. On February 26, the High Court issued an order on another case. According to Article 111 and 112 of the Constitution, the ACC has to obey the order of the Supreme Court. We are obliged to obey.”
According to the rules, the ACC is solely responsible for the investigation of an offense involving ‘corruption and bribery’. NBR is empowered to investigate ‘tax crimes’ and Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission is responsible for ‘capital market crimes (insider trading and market manipulation)’.
‘Currency counterfeiting’, ‘Document forgery’, ‘Extortion’, ‘Fraud’, ‘Forgery’, ‘Illegal arms trade’, ‘Kidnapping, illegal detention and hostage-taking’, ‘Murder and grievous bodily harm’, ‘Trafficking in women and children’, ‘Theft/robbery/piracy/hijacking’, ‘human trafficking’, ‘dowry’, ‘intellectual property infringement’, ‘terrorist and terrorist financing’, ‘adulteration or infringing production’, ‘Sexual harassment’, ‘Organized crime’, ‘Extortion of money through intimidation’ – these 18 related crimes are solely entrusted to the CID.
Besides, powers of inquiry and investigation of the remaining six related offenses are conferred jointly. These are – Joint Narcotics Control Directorate and CID dealing with ‘Illicit Drugs and Narcotics Trade’; ‘Theft and other illegal trade in goods’ Bangladesh Customs and CID; ‘Smuggling’ NBR and CID; ‘Domestic and Foreign Money Laundering’ NBR and CID; ‘Smuggling and Customs Offences’ NBR and CID; ‘Environmental Crimes’ The Directorate of Environment and the CID are jointly empowered to investigate.
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