The National Board of Revenue is set to hire a global accounting firm to gather information on illegal fund transfers from Bangladesh, said its Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan yesterday.
Bhuiyan, however, declined to disclose the name of the firm. “Let us sign an understanding agreement with the firm first,” he said, adding that the firm has operations in Bangladesh.
The disclosure came at a preliminary agreement signing ceremony between the NBR and the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), the central bank arm responsible for analysing suspicious transactions and information related to money laundering and terrorist financing.
Under the deal, the NBR and the BFIU will exchange information regarding money laundering and terrorism financing to fight illegal activities.
The agreement comes at a time when huge amounts of funds are believed to be siphoned out of the country through illegal means such as trade mis-invoicing.
The Global Financial Integrity said $61.6 billion were siphoned out of Bangladesh between 2005 and 2014, which is equivalent to 25 percent of the country's gross domestic product in fiscal 2016-17.
But Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan, deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank, downplayed the figures numbers, saying the BFIU never accepts as complete truth the figure provided by the GFI.
The Swiss National Bank publishes a report every year that draws huge attention from the Bangladeshi media.
The BFIU examined the data and found that 93 percent of the transactions were done through the proper channel, he said.
In other words, personal deposits accounted for only 7 percent of the total published figure. “So the extent of money laundering is not as severe as the GFI numbers suggest.”
Some 32 cases are under trial to bring back the siphoned off money.
“All the agencies are working to curb illegal capital flight. We have already frozen a number of accounts of some financial institutions for wrongdoings,” he added. The agreement will act as a deterrent for unscrupulous people, Bhuiyan said, adding that the NBR would be able to provide data on tax, customs as well as bank statements to the BFIU.
The BFIU will also sign similar agreements with the Anti-Corruption Commission, Bangladesh Police and other agencies related to financial matters, according to Hassan.
It has already signed agreements with 56 countries to exchange information, he said.