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Bangladesh - September 9, 2021

Financial sector looters still out of reach

Tk 110,000 cr laundered in a decade

Golam Mostafa Jibon:Why the plunderers of financial sector are still out of reach, such as question has now been intensified among the people along with a doubt over the capacity of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in this context.
According to the sources, there have been remained severalprecedents of irregularities and plundering in different banks and financial institutions in the country in the last a decade. Meanwhile, over Tk 110,000 crore has been laundered abroad. The ACC has failed to set a precedent for taking action against the corrupt individuals in the financial sector.
In 2015 alone, around $ 1,151 crore was laundered from Bangladesh, which amount is at around Tk 98,000 crore according to the domestic currency.
Such scenario has recently come to focus through a report of Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based think tank.
Most of the irregularities in the financial sector have taken place through borrowing from banks and financial institutions.
It is to be mentioned that, among many others, Anantex, Crescent and Thermex groups have taken away Tk 11,230 crore from Janata Bank. About Tk 4,500 crore has gone out of BASIC Bank. Hall-Mark has taken away Tk 3,547 crore from Sonali Bank, while Bismillah Group has taken away Tk 1,174 crore.
Around Tk 1,201 crore has been laundered from NRB Commercial Bank or former Farmers Bank. Besides, Tk 165 crore has been siphoned from AB Bank.
It has been alleged that, Prashanta Kumar Halder, locally known as PK Halder, former Managing Director of NRB Global Bank and Reliance Finance, alone has siphoned more than Tk20,000 crore. The names of Meghna Bank’s two directors-Shakhawat Hossain and Alok Kumar Das, and a few others have emerged as his accomplices.
According to a study by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), almost all of the looted money has been smuggled abroad. Although, there has been a continuous discussion in this regard for the last few years, irregularities in the financial sector have not come down. Replying to a question that, why they are not being caught, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) CommissionerMozammel Haque Khan said, “It is not easy to suppress them. There are many people influential behind them. We abide by our laws and do everything according to law. We do not judge. We are not police either. We have no power to take them on remand for a long time like police. We however, try to fetch the information related corruption and anomalies like the policy of different developed or civilized countries. It is difficult for us like the police can bring out the information.”
“We almost work over rich people. There they have social prestige and status. They also have political identity. Handling them is not an easy task. They have to be handled by high level officers like Assistant Director, Deputy Assistant Director and Deputy Director. We do not investigate directly. We examine, judge and guide. So, these are not easy tasks,” he added.
Replying another query that is ACC helpless in such case (?), the commissioner said, “A lot of money has already been returned. But, there is no specific calculation right now. We have caught many. There have been many cases. Many accused are in jail. The trial is underway. Many have returned the money out of fear. The return process has also started.”
Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said, “There is noticed failure of the ACC. No matter how strong and influential a person is, everyone is equal before the law. They have to work from this point of view. Taking action against their irregularities is illegal for the government.”
Former caretaker government adviser and economist M Mirza Azizul Islam also disagreed with the statement of the ACC commissioner.
He said, “The ACC have institutional autonomy. It has to be looked at case-to-case. In some cases,it may not be able to repay the loan or invest properly. But in many cases, the financial sector entrepreneurs or sponsors who are defaulters are not willingly repaying the loan, they are not using the money for the work, they are supposed to do. In some cases, it may be that the money is being smuggled. In all such cases, action has to be taken against them on case-by-case basis.
Mirza Aziz said, “It takes a long political commitment to overcome this, so that those, who have sponsors or are involved in such irregularities and such unprincipled works, do not get any political indulgence.”
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in the budget session at parliament on June 7said that, some 15 laws would be enacted in the next one year to restore order in the financial sector.
The minister said, “It will not be tolerated that the hard-earned money of the people of the country will go abroad. I am against irregularities and financial chaos. We all want these to stop. The situation is not the same as before. Inefficient management and ineffective management are behind such corruption and irregularities. We will work for reform. I will make new laws. I will make arrangements so that banks and financial institutions can work responsibly. None will be spared, if proved as guilty.”

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