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Bangladesh - World wide - April 10, 2023

Detecting wealth of 459 Bangladeshis in Dubai

HC ordered ignored?

Special Correspondent: On January 15, the High Court directed the relevant authorities to investigate the allegations of purchase of assets of 459 Bangladeshi citizens staying in Dubai. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police have been asked to investigate and submit a progress report to the High Court within 30 days.
However, after almost three months have passed instead of 30 days, the ACC said that they have started investigating the complaint. The other three organizations have not started any work yet.
Last year, America’s Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADC) said in their research report that 459 Bangladeshis owned a total of 972 housing assets in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by concealing information. For this they spent about $315 million. At least four to five Bangladeshis own around $44 million worth of property in the country.
The report also states that 64 of the assets are located in Dubai’s elite area, Dubai Marina and 19 in Palm Jumeirah. However, no one has been identified in the report. After the publication of a report in a Bengali daily, the High Court ordered an investigation into the four organizations on January 15. Now the agencies are saying that they could not start the investigation as they did not get the written copy of the court order.
When asked, CID Special Superintendent of Police (Financial Crime) Humayun Kabir told that they have not received any letter of High Court order regarding the property of 459 Bangladeshis in Dubai. If the letter is received, the work will be done according to the rules.
Similar information was reported from BFIU.
After the High Court’s order on January 17, ACC Commissioner (Investigation) Md. Zahurul Haque told the media that we have learned that the Supreme Court has asked us to investigate. I have not received the order yet. We will definitely investigate if we receive the order. The investigation will be thoroughly fact-checked. We will not exempt anyone if there is money laundering from the country.
On Monday (April 10), a senior official of the ACC told that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is investigating the allegations of buying assets of 459 Bangladeshi citizens in Dubai. Following the instructions of the High Court in this regard, a formal decision has been taken from the head office of the organization regarding the search. At the same time, a three-member investigation team has been formed.
A senior official of the Board of Revenue, tasked with preventing money laundering, told that four companies have been ordered to report. No one has been given sole responsibility. Maybe a joint committee was made. Not much is known about it.
The official, who did not wish to be named, added that the Board of Revenue may investigate trade-based money laundering. Import-export accounts fraud through over or under invoicing can lead to money laundering. This is what we call Trade Based Money Laundering. I can’t say whether anything like that has happened in the case of Bangladeshis purchasing assets in Dubai.
Although it has been seen several times before, these agencies have submitted investigation reports based on media reports even without the order of the High Court. However, they did not show any interest in the investigation of Dubai.
Iftekharuzzaman, the executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said that the organizations should have started the investigation on their own initiative outside of the court’s guidance. The inquiry was not initiated for non-receipt of written order, which is a very weak ground.
He said, the indifference of the agencies despite the court’s directives sends the message that such criminals deserve impunity.
Those concerned say that these assets of Bangladeshis have been developed in the country with bank money and bribe money. They have easily bought the income of many expatriate workers in Dubai. Due to this, the income of expatriates from the country through legal channels has decreased.
Although ACC officials repeatedly say, the process of bringing money back from abroad is very complicated. Apart from this, there are very few matters under the jurisdiction of the ACC to prevent money laundering.
According to the annual report of the ACC in 2022, according to the provisions of the ACC Act 2004, Money Laundering Act 2012, out of 27 related crimes, the ACC is responsible for the investigation of money laundering, which is only one related crime ‘bribery and corruption’.
Analyzing various researches or data, it is known that 80% of money smuggled from Bangladesh is done through international trade. CID and NBR are responsible for the investigation.
According to the money laundering section of the ACC, a total of 117 cases related to money laundering have been registered so far. Out of this, 83 cases are under investigation. Investigation of 34 cases including charge sheet in 32 cases and final report in two cases has been completed. 11 accused have been arrested in 83 cases under investigation.

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