The US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE, Malaysia, and the British Virgin Islands are among the major destinations the money-launderers from Bangladesh use to siphon off their illicit funds, said a government report yesterday.
The government identified the countries and territories based on independent studies and cases of illicit flow of funds.
The launderers siphon off the money under the guise of some available facilities like investment visa, permanent residency, long-term residency, second home project, and relaxed exchange control, according to the report.
The paper cited the facilities in its “national strategy for prevention of money laundering and combating finance of terrorism 2019-2021” launched at a programme at the capital’s InterContinental Hotel.
In the paper, the government has devised 11 strategies to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing and corruption. The report also said the government will apply the strategies in the next three years to 2021.
Trade-based money laundering, hundi/hawla, bulk cash smuggling, and transfer pricing manipulation are used commonly to transfer funds illegally, the paper also said.
However, two emerging types of illicit flow of funds from Bangladesh warrant further attention from the respective agencies.
First, foreigners with tourist visas earn money while working at Bangladeshi firms and transferring huge amounts abroad. The second is the advertisement or sponsorship fees paid by domestic firms to foreign social media platforms, according to the paper.
The government plans to carry out several studies between December 2019 and December 2020 to find out the amount of illicit flows of funds from Bangladesh, how and where they are siphoned off.
The studies will also look into how many foreigners are working in Bangladesh and how they are remitting funds to their home countries.
Another study will be conducted on how the fees for ads in foreign media are being paid and the purchases on e-commerce sites being made.
There will also be a strategic analysis to figure out the amount siphoned by way of loan scams and quick write-offs. Corruption, terrorism, and money laundering are threats to the existence of human kind, said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal at the launch.
“We need to address these menaces. We need to identify why and how the incidents of money laundering take place.” The majority of the money laundering incidents are trade-based, he said, adding that the government has already taken measures to automate the trading system.
“All exportable and imported goods would be brought under the scanning mechanism within the next seven months,” Kamal added. At present, nearly 40 percent of exports and imports are scanned at the entry and exit points.
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chairman Iqbal Mahmood said the watchdog has already confiscated HK$16 million and £0.80 million through mutual legal request assistance in Hong Kong and Britain respectively.
The ACC has initiated a legal measure to recover the fund, he said. Previously, SG$2.06 million and $0.93 million were brought back to the country.
Since 2016, the commission confiscated Tk 201.77 million from 165 bank accounts, 21 houses, 24 flats, 77 acres of land, and five luxury cars, Mahmood added.
Besides, the recovery of Tk 584.46 crore worth of wealth through confiscation is underway through court orders given between 2013 and 2019.
Bangladesh needs international cooperation to stop terrorist financing here, said Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs.
“Foreign friends of Bangladesh will also need to extend their cooperation to stop terrorist financing.”
Alam said a section of non-resident Bangladeshis collected money from people by tapping into religious sentiment and the fund was sent to Bangladesh to instigate militancy and terrorism.
Without mentioning the name of a western country, Alam said he had asked his foreign counterpart to take measures to stop fund collection for terrorist financing in Bangladesh. “But I failed to make my counterpart to understand the matter. However, he got it when his country was attacked by terrorists.”