ACC chief says 80% illegal capital flight takes place through trade transactions
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal Sunday mentioned money laundering and terrorist financing as serious threats to the country and called for waging a united fight led by the US, Canada and Australia against the menace.
"My concern is here. It (money laundering and terrorist financing) is a problem that Bangladesh cannot fight alone. Every country, the whole world has to be united," Kamal said at a seminar on "National Strategy for Prevention of Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism 2019-2021" held at a hotel in the capital.
Chairman of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), Iqbal Mahmood said that around 80% of illegal capital flight took place in the country through trade transactions.
The seminar was co-hosted by Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance.
The national strategy is a detailed roadmap for the implementation of action plans for a three-year period up to 2021 in compliance with the financial action task force (FATF) requirements. The FATF is a global intergovernmental body to combat money laundering and terrorist financing across the world.
Kamal said: "The subject matter of today’s discussion is of paramount importance. For various reasons, our country is at serious threat. No country can be relieved from this threat. So, I am requesting my friends from the US, Australia, and from other countries who are present here to join hands in this fight."
He said the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing also needed a common platform like the one in the global fight against climate risks.
The finance minister branded the money laundering and terrorist financing as the national enemy.
"It is not that it only creates macroeconomic distortion. It is largely destroying our country in various ways and also a threat to existence of human kind. We shall eliminate money laundering and terrorist financing from our soil," he said.
He said his government attached a lot of importance to this particular area and was putting all-out efforts to contain the threat.
He said money laundering reported from trade transactions was a critical issue to be looked into seriously.
"Currently, 40% of the country’s total imports and exports are being scanned. We would go for cent percent scanning in phases. People are going out of the country and coming into the country -- all need to be examined. I am sure the money laundering element will not be there anymore if we can enforce these effectively."
State Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said he was denied cooperation from a western country in the fight against terrorist financing activities in Bangladesh carried originally from that particular country.
"I failed to make them understand that money was being collected from people living in that country in the name of promoting and patronizing religious sentiment in Bangladesh. They did not cooperate me," said Shahriar without naming the country.
"There is a success story, too. I can name Singapore. We made a request to the government of Singapore seeking preventive measures against similar activities. The Singapore government extended cooperation accordingly. As a result, we were successful in eliminating such activity in the country," he said.
Iqbal Mahmud said the ACC became stronger after the amendment to ACC Act 2004, which enabled the organization to go for diverse ranges of legal actions against corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing.
During 2008 to 2015, some 222 criminals were rounded up and convicted with different charges, he said.
The ACC chairman also revealed that 165 bank accounts were frozen with an accumulated amount of $26 million up to April 2019 while the total value of confiscated land and other resources stood at $ 69 million during the period.
Besides, the ACC successfully recovered a handful amount of laundered money from Hong Kong recently, he added.
The ACC chairman suggested that the BFIU needed to be expanded with the inclusion of representatives from all other relevant agencies for better outcome in the future.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir, secretary to Financial Institution Division Md Ashadul Islam, BFIU Chief Abu Hena Mohd. Razee Hassan, Additional Inspector General of Police Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Embassy of the United States in Dhaka JoAnne Wagner spoke, among others.