The number of Bangladeshis enrolling on the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme has been on the rise since 2011 after a decline during 2007-10, meaning more money is flying off the country.
The Bangladeshis started to take up the offer in 2003 when 32 citizens chose to settle in Malaysia under the programme. The number jumped to 204 in the following year, 852 in 2005 and 341 in 2006, according to the Malaysian government.
But the number started to decline and stood at 149 in 2007 apparently due to a political changeover in Bangladesh.
In the following three years, from 2008 to 2010, a total of 228 Bangladeshi citizens took the offer.
The number has started to rise again since 2011. During 2011-2013, some 949 Bangladeshi citizens settled in Malaysia, and in the first four months of the current year, the number of such persons stood at 119.
Till April this year, a total of 2,874 Bangladeshis enrolled on the MM2H programme, meaning at least Tk 3,506 crore was taken away from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh also ranks third on the list of foreigners making Malaysia their 'second home', after China and Japan, and the number is four times higher than those from Pakistan and India.
According to the Malaysian government rules, to settle there under the programme, one needs to deposit liquid assets worth at least RM 500,000 (about Tk 1.22 crore) and show offshore income of RM 10,000 (about Tk 2.45 lakh) per month.
Most of the money was channelled through informal ways as Bangladesh's central bank does not allow its citizens to take such big amounts abroad without its approval.
Still Bangladesh Bank is helpless as it cannot detect who took the offer so far, and how much money was sent abroad.
“No money (for MM2H) was sent through banking channels. It was sent through hundi (an informal channel of money transfer) or transferred to Malaysia from a third country,” Mahfuzur Rahman, executive director and spokesman of BB, told The Daily Star.
The central bank's financial integrity unit tried to get the list of Bangladeshis from the Malaysian government, but failed.
“Malaysia declined to give the list of our citizens who enrolled on the programme, saying it is a confidential matter,” Rahman said.
He, however, said the BB has got evidence of only three to four persons and sent those documents to the Anti Corruption Commission and law-enforcing agencies for further investigation.
The MM2H is a government-endorsed programme introduced in 2002 particularly to attract foreigners wishing to live in Malaysia for extended periods.
Beneficiaries under the programme are given a renewable, ten-year, multiple-entry visa from the Malaysian immigration department.
Other incentives include house and car purchases and tax exemption on pensions and foreign income brought into the country. The programme also enables the children of the applicants to study in international schools in Malaysia.
As of April this year, some 25,506 expatriates have settled in the Southeast Asian country since 2002, the Malaysian government's data shows.
China topped the list with 5,659 persons, followed by Japan's 3,346. Some 2,119 people from the UK and Northern Ireland settled in Malaysia and 1,297 from Iran.