The customs house of Chattogram is going to sue two firms—Grambangla Food Corporation and M/S N Islam Enterprise—on charges of money laundering in the name of goods import.
Bangladesh Bank and the National Board of Revenue have recently instructed customs authorities to take legal action against the two under the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2012.
The customs house in May last year busted the two companies while illegally importing cigarettes worth Tk 12.86 crore. The hauls were labelled as textile goods and machinery worth Tk 11.50 lakh, according to BB and customs officials.
Only Tk 11 lakh was sent through bank for the purchases. Officials suspect that Tk 12.77 crore was laundered to Singapore.
The revelations came in a report of the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit of the central bank in October.
The report said the companies exist on papers only and their documents of house rent, trade licence, address, bank accounts, letter of credit and credit report of supplier were forged.
The Daily Star saw documents related to 20 falsely labelled consignments of various goods busted in the last four and a half years. Officials suspect that money was laundered in each of the cases.
During the period, the customs filed seven cases in connection with the hauls against Anwar and Com, Henan Anhui Agro LC, Agro BD & JP, M/S Genetic Fashions Ltd, FRC Knit Composite, Kadera Sportswear Ltd, and RAZ Apparel Ltd.
Genetic Fashions Ltd, FRC Knit Composite, Kadera Sportswear and RAZ Apparel told the customs house during a hearing that they had not imported the goods; rather those were rather imported using their names, sources at the customs said.
According to customs documents, these companies sent Tk 80 lakh abroad through banks and laundered Tk 70 crore. But the Customs House did not accuse them of money laundering.
After getting the nod from the BB and the NBR, customs officials are now preparing to file fresh cases of money laundering against the companies, Customs Commissioner AKM Nuruzzaman told this correspondent recently.
Filing of a money laundering case requires detailed information about importers, exporters, shipping agents, banks and multiple organisations concerned. Sometimes it may be necessary to visit exporting countries, he added. “After receiving instructions from the NBR recently, an eight-member anti-money laundering branch has been formed.”
Moinul Islam, a professor of the economics department at the University of Chittagong, said a powerful section of banks and customs officials were involved with the gangs of launderers.
About 90 percent of the country's trade take place through the customs house, he added.
A team of the Anti-Corruption Commission should monitor the import-export documents at the customs house to stop these incidents, Islam said.
An inspection committee of the customs house recommended that the owners of the four companies who said they were not involved in bringing the consignments be quizzed by police.
If anti-money laundering cases are filed against these companies and inspected thoroughly, the beneficiaries of the consignments would come to light, it said.