Tk 92,000 cr smuggled every year
Zarif Mahmud: According to the GFI report released in December last year, $4,965 million have been smuggled out of Bangladesh in 6 years. Which is Tk 556,000 crores in local currency as Tk 112 per dollar. An average of Tk 92,000 thousand crore is being smuggled every year.
Economists and related parties think that money laundering is increasing from the country due to two reasons. First, economic weakness and second, political uncertainty. Money is being flown out of the country fearing that the situation could escalate at any time.
The laws currently in place in the country are sufficient to stop smuggling and bring back money previously laundered. But political will is essential for the implementation of these laws. Those who are laundering money by controlling or occupying the state structure, are out of touch.
Meanwhile, the names of hundreds of people who have smuggled money have been published in various media including Daily Industry. But no action was taken against them. On the contrary, they got political benefits.
Chittagong University professor Dr. Moinul Islam told Daily Industry that the Swiss bank is no longer an important issue. It is not an attractive place for money laundering. Money in Swiss banks is a very old thing. Because money laundering has become so easy now, money can be taken to any country. Currently, our money is being laundered in many countries of the world through the banking system and the Hundi system.
He said that at present there are about one and a half million Bangladeshi expatriates in different countries of the world. Those who want to send remittances to the country, sell them to Hundi. And the people of Hundi deposited the smugglers into their own accounts. An equivalent amount is being delivered to remittance recipients in Bangladesh. Currently, Bangladesh is reaching all countries including USA, Canada, Dubai, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. In other words, capital is being heavily smuggled out of the country.
Information about money laundering is coming from Bangladesh in the report of 6 international organizations. These are the Panama Paradise and Pandora Papers published by the US-based organization Global Financial Integrity (GFI), Swiss Bank, the US-based International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report and the country’s Second Home report published by Malaysia.
According to these reports, most of the money smuggled from Bangladesh goes to specific 10 countries. In this case, countries with relatively low taxes and rule of law are chosen by criminals. These include – Dubai, Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, USA, UK, Switzerland, UAE, Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand. In recent times, most of the traffic is going to Dubai. Some big groups have opened offices there and are smuggling money. Dubai is also safe for large bribery transactions. Payment must be made in dollars. The chairman of a private bank is helping many people in these transactions.
Meanwhile, in the budget of the current fiscal year 2022-23, the government gave special opportunities to money launderers. One can legalize money laundered abroad by paying 7 percent tax. But in this process not even a taka has been returned so far. However, such opportunities are criticized by various organizations and economists. Currently a regular taxpayer in the country pays up to 25 percent tax. As such, money launderers have been given incentives.
If you want to know, private research institute Center Policy Dialogue (CPD) special fellow Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya told Daily Industry that there are several reasons for money laundering. Currently, the economic situation in the country is weak and there is political uncertainty. Due to economic weakness, money has already decreased. As a result, many of the wealthy are seeking to protect their wealth in foreign currencies. On the other hand, due to political uncertainty, their assurance and security is essential. That’s why they want to keep money abroad. In a word, economic weakness on the one hand, and political uncertainty on the other hand, are increasing money laundering.
He said – I do not think that the country lacks knowledge, administrative capacity and law to prevent trafficking. But the political will be required to enforce the law is lacking. Because those against whom action will be taken, they are within the conventional political power.
Dr. Debapriya said, there are some measures in the country to prevent money laundering. But those measures will not be effective if there is no stable and accountable government within the country. As a result, if any other social forces, empowered to deal with them, cannot be solved by conventional political forces and administration. Even controlling it is difficult. Therefore, accountability and transparency must be ensured. Data – where and what – must be collected well.
He also said that Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, Anti-Corruption Commission, CID and Immigration have information about money laundering. They should be used. Political will is essential for this initiative.
When asked to know, the executive director of Transparency International of Bangladesh (TIB), an international anti-corruption organization. Iftekharuzzaman told Daily Industry, this is a partial picture of the money that is smuggled out of the country every year. The whole picture is more dire. Because 36 percent of the total trade is smuggled abroad. According to him, there are many reasons for money laundering. And there may be a lack of government capacity to stop them. Or the government is not willing.
According to him, smugglers do not feel safe in the country with the money earned through corruption. And whatever the reason, money laundering is not a good sign at all.
Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, it cannot be said that all the money deposited by Bangladeshis in Swiss banks has been smuggled out of the country. However, most of them are smuggled.
He said, not only the Swiss bank, money has been laundered in many other countries. In this, money has gone to many countries including Singapore, Canada, Malaysia and the United States. A total of 10 to 12 billion dollars has been smuggled, it can be roughly said. And influential people are involved in this money laundering. They are working together.
He said political will is essential to stop trafficking. On the other hand, there are examples of money laundering in our country. In that case, there is a shortage of courage, determination and political decision. As a result, the money cannot be returned. He also said that the government needs revenue. But taxes are being increased on the common people without emphasis on those from whom the revenue will come easily. Those who are laundering money by controlling or occupying the state structure, must be kept out of touch. Because of this, smuggling could not be brought under control.
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