'If the rule of law and good economic governance is ensured in the country, the tendency of money laundering will decrease'
At a time when Bangladesh is supposed to be cruising through development, the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) reports that approximately Tk5 lakh crore was laundered out of the country last year.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, economists and experts pointed out that lack of individual investment facility, fears of political instability, complex bureaucracy of state institutions, lack of good governance and widespread corruption are root causes behind money laundering.
They said, Bangladeshi depositors have dropped Tk5,400 crore in Swiss banks, while names of 84 individuals have come up in the Panama Papers.
Leading economic analyst Mamun Rashid believes that stringent actions must be taken to lessen political instability and corruption.
For this, conflicting policies should never be taken into consideration, he also said.
He also noted that institutional capacities must be increased in light of technology.
Mentioning further initiatives, he said that if the rule of law and good economic governance is ensured in the country, the tendency of money laundering will decrease.
Simultaneously, the country's international trade, corporate tax rates, and foreign exchange management or policies need to be updated and simplified in the light of the prevailing policies of other competing countries, he clarified.
Earlier, Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission said that appropriate action was not being taken as there was not enough information from the countries concerned to take action against money laundering abroad.
"If we get the documents properly, we have no chance to lose money laundering cases. The success (in some cases) solely depends on documents. Not getting those documents and information is our main obstacle now," he also said.
An official of Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), seeking anonymity, said that in the last 5 years, 1,024 reports of money laundering have been finalized.
There are nearly 50 cases in trial. Investigating and bringing all information to court is the biggest challenge because of the time period, he also said.
He also said that money is mostly laundered to Canada, Malaysia, the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Hong Kong, and Thailand.
Centre for Policy Dialogue's Distinguished Fellow Prof Mostafizur Rahman said: “The opportunity of money whitening repeatedly given in the budget is a major obstacle to controlling corruption. Even after strict policies, an average of Tk50,000-60,000 crore is smuggled out of the country every year.”
"To get out of this situation, we have to try to control money laundering through various surveillance agencies and relevant laws," he added.
Many of the cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have not been settled for years. The investigations of these sensitive cases were taking much longer than usual.
Barrister Sumon Sikder said: “The Finance Act 2020 stated that by providing 10 % tax of undisclosed money could be legalized. This is a visible conflict with the constitution. It is also in conflict with the Money Laundering Act 2012. Money laundering cannot be stopped by giving opportunity”
He urged that under the current law, the maximum sentence is not enough to bar this flow. The government must clear its stance on money laundering and modify laws with the current situation.
On the issue of money laundering, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal had said at the Parliament on June 7: “I am against these irregularities. These need to be stopped. I do not have a list of people who smuggle money.
“Give us the names of people if you know them. If we can create better investment opportunities, if there is a comparative advantage, then no one will take money abroad," he remarked.